A statement from the court said that while “for the most part” the guidelines were a compilation of standards the justices have tried to follow, the public commitment was necessary to correct a public “misunderstanding” about the justices’ ethical obligations.
The absence of an ethics code has given the impression “that the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules,” said the statement, signed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and his eight colleagues. “To dispel this misunderstanding, we are issuing this Code, which largely represents a codification of principles that we have long regarded as governing our conduct.”
The code contains broadly worded sections relating to outside relationships, participation in cases that could bring financial gain to family members, the use of a justice’s staff and limits on joining fundraising activities for groups.
An unsigned “commentary” accompanying the code indicates that justices will continue to make their own decisions about recusals and speaking engagements. It says justices should “consider whether doing so would create an appearance of impropriety in the minds of reasonable members of the public.”
The code does not squarely confront questions about lavish trips and gifts that some justices have received from billionaire friends, or questions about recusals.
The 14-page document was praised as a first step by some of the court’s Democratic critics, but criticized by legal ethics experts and others for not including a specific remedy for a complaint that a justice has violated the court’s standards and for giving justices too much discretion over recusal decisions.
Folks online are still not happy about the news:
Pretty much the Supreme Court will continue do as they please. Made up false ethic rules, but won’t be enforced. Everyone else in this country, u will go by decisions/rulings we make,yet we don’t have to follow any laws, because we answer to no one? pic.twitter.com/117zHw8ST9
The folks over at Fox News share more on the story:
Fox News has learned that the Court has been meeting privately for months on how to structure a new ethics code, one that would address public concerns over ethics without abdicating what the Chief Justice in particular had said was the court’s independence on such matters from congressional oversight.
Justices Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett in recent weeks had all publicly voiced support for a new ethics code.
Chief Justice Roberts in May issued a statement signed by all nine members of the court saying there was more work for the court to do to “adhere to the highest ethical standards.”
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee had mounted relentless pressure on the high court after reports that Justices Thomas and Alito went on luxury vacations paid for by friends.
Ranking Member Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. accused his Democratic counterparts of launching “a concentrated effort” to delegitimize the conservative majority Supreme Court.
“This is not about trying to update the ability of the court to be more transparent, it’s about an effort to destroy the legitimacy of this conservative court,” Graham said in May.