Congress must act on Supreme Court ethics reform, according to testimony CREW submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on judicial ethics today. CREW recommended the committee take specific concrete steps toward a more ethical and accountable Supreme Court.
Justice Clarence Thomas’s recently uncovered personal and financial relationship with billionaire political donor Harlan Crow is an egregious ethics scandal that may even be criminal. Crow has donated millions of dollars to conservative figures and groups over three decades and has had business before the court, and Thomas accepting his gifts in secret perfectly illustrates the Supreme Court’s broken ethics system. While Thomas’s refusal to disclose these gifts has led to calls for reform and higher ethical standards for the justices, he likely won’t be held accountable, eroding the Supreme Court’s institutional legitimacy even further.
For decades, conservative and liberal judges and justices have tested the limits of the system’s weak ethics rules. Congress must step in and impose real measures of accountability on the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary.
Specifically, CREW proposed the creation and appointment of an Inspector General for the federal judiciary to conduct independent investigations to identify wrongdoing and abuse before they grow into scandals, developing a binding, clear and public code of conduct for the Supreme Court—and imposing such a code on the Court if it refuses to adopt one—and expanding the federal criminal conflict of interest statute to the Supreme Court and the entire federal judiciary.