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Supreme Court issues Code of Conduct

Supreme Court, November 13, 2023 [15 page PDF]: “The undersigned Justices are promulgating this Code of Conduct [there is no accountability nor enforcement mechanism] to set out succinctly and gather in one place the ethics rules and principles that guide the conduct of the Members of the Court. For the most part these rules and principles are not new: The Court has long had the equivalent of common law ethics rules, that is, a body of rules derived from a variety of sources, including statutory provisions, the code that applies to other members of the federal judiciary, ethics advisory opinions issued by the Judicial Conference Committee on Codes of Conduct, and historic practice. The absence of a Code, however, has led in recent years to the misunderstanding that the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules. 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…

This Code of Conduct is substantially derived from the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, but adapted to the unique institutional setting of the Supreme Court. In certain instances, the foregoing Canons provide fairly specific guidance…This Commentary does not adopt the extensive commentary from the lower court Code, much of which is inapplicable. It instead is tailored to the Supreme Court’s placement at the head of a branch of our tripartite governmental structure.”

See also S.359 – Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act of 2023, 118th Congress (2023-2024). Sponsor: Sen. Whitehouse, Sheldon [D-RI] (Introduced 02/09/2023); Committees: Senate – Judiciary. This bill makes various changes related to the ethical standards, financial disclosure requirements, and recusal requirements that apply to Supreme Court Justices. Among the changes, the bill requires the Supreme Court to: adopt a code of conduct for Justices and establish procedures to receive and investigate complaints of judicial misconduct; adopt rules governing the disclosure of gifts, travel, and income received by the Justices and law clerks that are at least as rigorous as the House and Senate disclosure rules; and establish procedural rules requiring each party or amicus to disclose any gift, income, or reimbursement provided to Justices. Additionally, expands the circumstances under which a Justice or judge must be disqualified; and requires the Supreme Court and the Judicial Conference to establish procedural rules for prohibiting the filing of or striking an amicus brief that would result in the disqualification of a Justice, judge, or magistrate judge.”

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