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Judge Gorsuch Signals Openness to Pro-Transparency Reforms at the Supreme Court

Hearkening back to answers on transparency given by previous Supreme Court nominees, Judge Neil Gorsuch signaled on day two of his confirmation hearing that he would keep an “open mind” on policies that would aim to bring high court hearings directly to the American people via video and would ensure that the justices are held to the highest ethical standards.

When asked by Sen. Amy Klobuchar about cameras in the courtroom, Gorsuch responded, “I come to it with an open mind. It’s not a question that I confess I’ve given a great deal of thought to.”

Klobuchar went on to ask about the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, which among federal judges only the justices are not bound to follow. “Do you think there should be the same ethical standards for Supreme Court justices [as lower court judges]?” she asked.

Gorsuch’s response, which also referenced the annual financial disclosure regimen for all federal judges: “I have no problem living under the rules I’ve lived under. I’m quite comfortable with them. I have no problem reporting every year to the best of my abilities everything I can. […] I consider it part of the price of service, and it’s reasonable and fair one.”

Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth responded: “Judge Gorsuch’s answers on broadcast access and ethics, signaling an openness to reform, closely mirror what every recent nominee has said. The difference today may be this: if confirmed, Gorsuch would be the fifth justice born in 1950 or later, and it’s possible to imagine that this new majority of ‘younger’ justices – who grew up with television and, thanks to Watergate, with an understanding that no one in government is above the law – would be more likely to implement livestreaming of oral arguments and best practices in ethics.”

Additional background:

Last week, two bipartisan cameras bills – one for the Supreme Court and one for all federal courts – were introduced in the Senate. Companion bills exist in the House (LINK: current broadcast policies in federal courts of appeals, including Gorsuch’s court).

In 2015, the Supreme Court Ethics Act, led by Sens. Murphy and Blumenthal, would have required the justices to follow the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges. Also that year, Sen. Grassley drew up legislation, Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act, that would have created an inspector general’s office in the federal judiciary with oversight over the entire federal bench, including the Supreme Court.

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