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Alito and Judicial "Self-Restraint"

The Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges states, “A judge should not personally participate in fund-raising activities, solicit funds for any organization or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose. A judge should not personally participate in membership solicitation if the solicitation might reasonably be perceived as coercive or is essentially a fund-raising mechanism.”

So the code is fairly clear on federal judges’ participation in fundraising events. It’s a no-go.

If only the justices of the Supreme Court were required to follow the code. We know they’re not, so it’s no wonder Justice Samuel Alito continues to headline fundraising events for conservative organizations, from the American Spectator magazine to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. This activity leads to an uproar on the left and backlash on the right and then backlash to the backlash, and then we’re back to where we started, having gotten nowhere.

We see two solutions: a more vigilant public that speaks out in favor of greater accountability from Supreme Court justices or a court whose “[primary] check upon our own exercise of power,” Justice Harlan Fiske Stone wrote in the 1930s, “is our own sense of self-restraint” (italics mine).

While we hope for the latter, we’re not confident that the justices will choose “self-restraint” in a given situation. At Fix the Court, we’ll work here toward the former.

Fix the Court is calling on Chief Justice Roberts and his colleagues to formally adopt the code of ethics – called the Code of Conduct for United States Judges – that all other federal judges are required to follow. Should they demur, we believe Congress has the authority to compel the justices to adopt the code.

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