The Judicial Conference of the U.S., the judiciary’s policy-making arm, has a long history of reflexively opposing any bills that would improve transparency and accountability in the courts, as it prefers that Congress stay out of the business of judicial oversight and that, instead, judges regulate their own.
That’s not how oversight is supposed work.
What’s more, Congress already legislates the conflict-of-interest, recusal and financial disclosure rules for the third branch without incident.
Earlier this month, Jim Duff, the JCUS secretary and left in the above photo next to Chief Justice Roberts, wrote to Speaker Paul Ryan to express the Conference’s opposition to key parts of the Judiciary ROOM Act, which incorporates several FTC “fixes,” such as live video in appeals courts, recusal explanations and a SCOTUS code of conduct.
Duff’s reasoning generally rests on two misguided principles: first, that the Conference can’t even be in the room discussing the application of new rules to SCOTUS since JCUS members, who are lower federal judges, can’t make directives that apply to their superiors; and second, that the Conference can’t ask the circuit courts to enact pro-transparency measures since each circuit has its own local rules.
The first premise is non-sensical. If an ethics rule works well in the lower courts, couldn’t the judiciary figure out how to apply said rule to SCOTUS?
As far as the second point is concerned, the Conference and its various committees, not to mention Congress, make rules all the time for the circuits to follow, so this should be no different.
Read the Judicial Conference’s ROOM Act letter here.
Read Fix the Court’s rebuttal here.