Justice Samuel Alito is one of the eight current Supreme Court justices to have served on the federal bench before being appointed to the high court. Justice Elena Kagan is the lone exception.
When Alito and his high court colleagues were, at one time, serving in U.S. Courts of Appeals based in Philadelphia, Boston, Washington and San Francisco, they were all bound to the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges. But no longer. The justices are the only federal judges exempt from following the code.
Save a few appearances at events that arguably could be deemed to have been political fundraisers, Justice Alito has in recent years been careful when it comes to following the aforementioned (and now non-binding) code. When he inherited vast amounts of stock after his father-in-law passed away two years, for example, he often recused himself from considering petitions to the high court in which such publicly-traded companies were parties.
But there’s a key difference between seemingly following a general set of ethical principles and being required to follow those principals as a tenet of one’s job. The latter is needed to ensure accountability from our nation’s top legal officials.
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.