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Senators Urge Requiring Justices To Write Code Of Conduct In A Year

Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.) will introduce a bill Wednesday that would require the U.S. Supreme Court to create its own code of conduct within a year, following media reports that raise questions about whether Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch properly disclosed financial activities, reports the Wall Street Journal. “It’s pitiful that we’re having to introduce this bill—it’s pathetic that the Supreme Court hasn’t done this itself,” King said. The senator noted that every other federal judge is subject to a code of conduct. "We’re not prescribing what the standard should be,” King said. “We’re just saying, ‘Do it yourself, and then be sure that there’s someone to keep track of it and that there’s some transparency in reporting.’”

The King-Murkowski bill is more modest than legislation introduced in February by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) which in addition to requiring the court to adopt a code of conduct would tighten disclosure and recusal requirements for justices and for interest groups that file briefs with the court. With that bill having no Republican co-sponsors, King and Murkowski said their more targeted legislation might have a greater chance of passage in a divided Congress. In 2019, Justice Elena Kagan said Chief Justice John Roberts was considering whether to have a code of conduct drafted for the Supreme Court. Roberts has refused to appear next week at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue. Attention on the court’s ethics rules flared up this month after ProPublica reported on lavish vacatons Texas billionaire Harlan Crow provided Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Virginia Thomas, and later reported that Justice Thomas and his relatives had sold Crow the house where Justice Thomas’s mother lives.


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