Rep. Jones, Colleagues Demand Transparency and Higher Ethical Standards for Supreme Court Justices
Washington, DC — Last week, U.S. Representative Mondaire Jones (D-NY), along with his colleagues, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representatives Hank Johnson (D-GA) and David Cicilline (D-RI), sent a letter to Democratic Congressional leadership urging them to include the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act in upcoming must-pass legislation before the end of the 117th Congress. The SCERT Act would establish crucial ethical standards for Supreme Court justices.
“The Justices of the United States Supreme Court are not above the law,” wrote the lawmakers. “Yet, year after year, this is the message that the justices send by flouting basic legal and ethical obligations. Congress enables this conduct by failing to enact clear, enforceable ethics standards for the nation’s highest court. In the coming weeks, the 117th Congress will have a final chance to change this narrative and begin restoring legitimacy to a once-hallowed institution.”
This call for increased ethics on the nation’s high court comes amid reports of misbehavior by multiple conservative justices, including Justice Clarence Thomas, who—despite his wife’s direct participation in President Trump’s plan to overturn the 2020 election—refused to recuse himself from multiple decisions involving January 6th, the January 6th Select Committee, and President Trump’s election challenges. Additionally, a recent New York Times article describes credible allegations that Justice Samuel Alito leaked the outcome and authorship of the Court’s 2014 opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby to far-right donors weeks before those details were ever announced.
To maintain trust in our democracy, Supreme Court Justices must be held to the highest possible standards of ethical conduct. Yet, as it stands, the Supreme Court is the only court in the country without a binding code of ethics. The SCERT Act would address this problem head-on by:
• Establishing a binding judicial code of conduct for the Supreme Court
• Requiring the justices to adhere to—at a minimum—the same gift/travel/income disclosure standards as members of Congress
• Establishing enforceable recusal criteria for the justices that are aimed at addressing the Court’s recent ethics scandals
• Requiring parties and amici before the Court to disclose any lobbying or substantial expenditures in support of a justice’s nomination, confirmation, or appointment
• Requiring parties that file amicus briefs to disclose their major sources of funding, and creating rules to allow courts to strike amicus briefs that would require a justice, judge, or magistrate judge to recuse themselves
Rep. Jones has been a leading voice on Supreme Court reform, having introduced the SCERT Act with Rep. Johnson and having introduced the Judiciary Act with Rep. Johnson to restore balance and credibility to the far-right, hyper-partisan institution by adding four seats.
In addition to Representatives Jones, Johnson, Cicilline, and Senator Whitehouse, this letter was also signed by: Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Nikema Williams (D-GA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Katie Porter (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Dina Titus (D-NV), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), André Carson (D-IN), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Cori Bush (D-MO), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Sean Casten (D-IL), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Jared Huffman (D-CA), and David Scott (D-GA).