Democrats Call for New Supreme Court Ethics Rule

( – Democrats in the US Senate have demanded tighter rules to be applied to the Supreme Court after a series of reports surfaced in the media concerning two of the justices and their business interactions with third parties with interest in their cases.

These included Clarence Thomas’s acceptance of a real estate deal and luxury travel from Republican donor Harlan Crow, and the sale of a property by Neil Gorsuch to a law firm executive who had business pending before the court.

A hearing of the Senate judiciary committee had been convened by Democrats on the basis that the Supreme Court should not have the “lowest ethical standards” of any court in the country; however, Republicans accused the Democrats of “sour grapes” after recent conservative rulings, in particular the overturning of the precedent set by Roe v Wade to allow individual states to ban abortion.

The chairman of the Democratic committee, Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois, fulminated: “We wouldn’t tolerate this from an alderman or a city council member. It falls far short of the ethical standards we rightfully expect of public servants in our country.”

“Ethics cannot merely be left to the discretion of the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court should have a clear and enforceable code of conduct so that justices and the American people will know when conduct crosses the line. The nation’s highest court should not have the lowest ethical standards.”

Although the court has no formal ethics code, federal law requires that judges recuse themselves from any matter where their impartiality might reasonably be questioned. 

However, the top Republican on the panel, Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, argued that Democrats were simply trying to undermine the court’s conservative majority. He said: “This assault on our Supreme Court justices goes far beyond any question of ethics. It is yet another attempt to delegitimize a majority-conservative court that was appointed through the traditional process.” 

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