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Public Citizen Welcomes the Latest Steps by the Senate Judiciary Committee in Pursuit of Court Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On May 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the need to restore confidence in the Supreme Court’s ethical standards. A recent spate of news stories of undisclosed, lavish gifts and luxury travel from private parties has brought to the fore the simple question: Why is the Supreme Court not subject to the same code of ethics that applies to the rest of the judiciary, as well as to those in the executive and legislative branches of government? Craig Holman, Ph.D., government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, and Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of Public Citizen, are available to discuss the news.

“The primary objective of the hearing is to prod the Supreme Court into abiding by the gift restrictions and disclosure requirements of the Judicial Conference’s Code of Conduct – an ethics code that binds all other judges in the federal judiciary,” said Holman. “But if the Court is not willing to adopt the Code of Conduct for itself, hopefully the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider legislation to impose stringent ethical standards on the Court.”

Chief Justice John Roberts declined an invitation by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to testify at the hearing.

“The most recent Gallup Poll shows that Americans’ confidence in the integrity of the Supreme Court has dropped to an all-time low, with just 25 percent of respondents saying they have confidence in the Court,” said Gilbert. “This is a dramatic reversal for an institution that historically enjoyed the highest confidence ratings of all the branches of government and a warning shot across the bow that something needs to be done.”

In addition to an ethics code for the Supreme Court, Public Citizen also supports other court reforms, such as term limits for the justices.

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