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Supreme Court’s Unenforceable Code of Conduct Falls Short

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court today released a code of conduct. Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, released the following statement:

“The new code of conduct for the Supreme Court is certainly a positive step. But lacking any enforcement mechanism, it unfortunately falls short. 

“No entity is responsible for interpreting what constitutes an ‘impropriety’ other than the judgment of each individual justice. And although the code provides for justices to voluntarily recuse themselves from cases in which they have a conflict of interest, it provides an exception where recusal would interfere with the normal duties of the Court – an exception that seems to permit justices to sit on cases in which they have conflicts in some instances.

“The Code could have gone further. The Code of Conduct for lower court judges is enforced by the Judicial Conference of the United States. The Supreme Court could have recognized or allowed that body to exercise similar authority over it as well, but it did not.

“Thus, the Code for the Supreme Court operates on an honor system. Unfortunately, an honor system has proven inadequate for other branches of government.”