Justice Thomas famously took trips on a conservative donor’s jet and yacht and didn’t report those trips in his annual financial disclosure reports.
And since the Supreme Court does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Freedom of Information Act, one watchdog group cleverly sent a FOIA request to the U.S. Marshals Service to ask for copies of records relating to Thomas’ travel to learn if those trips violated any ethics rules. (Marshals often protect justices on trips outside of Washington.) Unfortunately, the justices are not bound by the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, so no disciplinary action was taken in this case.
While the White House and many congressional offices each day release the public schedules of the President and members of Congress, respectively, the Supreme Court refrains from giving advanced notice of when a justice is appearing in public for a lecture, seminar, or other event. And sometimes, when a justice appears in public, he or she goes to great lengths to ensure a speech or panel discussion is not recorded or broadcast.
Further, it’s not always clear from a justice’s annual financial disclosure report who paid for his or her travel to and lodging for said event.
Fix the Court is calling on the court to advise the press of the justices’ public appearances (i.e., not vacation or other personal dealings) outside of the court, allow media coverage of most of those appearances like other top government officials and be more forthcoming about their travel benefactors in their disclosure reports.