We can cut Chief Justice Roberts some slack for not recusing himself from cases in which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has filed a brief, even though the chief authored one such brief on their behalf in 1996 – namely because it’s been 18 years, and the Chamber has in the intervening time become the most prolific Supreme-Court-brief-writing force in the country.
But, as you’ll see throughout this site, the fact that the chief said in 2011 that he has “complete confidence in the capability of my colleagues to determine when recusal is warranted” makes little sense given the justices’ insistence that they not step aside from cases in which they have a clear conflict of interests.
The Supreme Court does not require justices to explain the reasons for their recusals, and it’s clear why this opaque practice must end. While we do not assume Chief Justice Robert and his colleagues to be acting improperly on a regular basis, there is no reason for them to hide behind this antiquated practice that leave the media and members of the public guessing if and when a justice has a potential conflict of interest.
Fix the Court is calling on the chief justice to establish a formal recusal reporting procedure in which justices would submit the reason for their recusal to the court’s Public Information Office, which would then post the reason on the court’s website. And we’re calling on the court to make it easier for attorneys and members of the public to file a request for recusal in any case.