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Republicans and Democrats Agree on the Need for a Supreme Court Ethics Code

You may have seen that yesterday’s House Judiciary hearing on H.R. 1 – the Democrats’ collection of voting rights, campaign finance and ethics reforms – was quite contentious, especially when it came to the voting provisions.

But what you may have missed is how one provision in the bill actually gained bipartisan support: Section 7001, which would create a formal ethics code for Supreme Court justices, who are currently the only Article III judges exempt from the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges.

Here’s Chairman Nadler’s opening salvo on that measure (at 9:00):

“H.R. 1 also includes a provision that passed last year, on a bipartisan basis, to require the development of a judicial code of ethics that would apply to all federal judges, including the Supreme Court – the only court in the country currently not subject to any binding code of ethics.”

Here’s Ranking Member Collins’ views, presented in the form of a question to POGO’s Sarah Turberville (at 1:02:47):

“I do want to find one – I always like to try and maybe find one point of agreement that we can have on this. Ms. Turberville, you brought this up, and I’d like for you to take just a moment, and some may not understand – I know for the attorneys who are used to dealing with ethics and judges [are] – explain a little bit more about the Supreme Court and encouraging them to put [an ethics code] together because that’s something I think we can find agreement on, and I’d like to hear you express a little bit more about that.”

(Sarah’s longer explanation – i.e., her testimony – can be found here, and here’s Sarah again, discussing the latest polling on the SCOTUS ethics measure.)

You may recall that this language* is the same as in H.R. 6755, the Republican-introduced Judiciary ROOM Act, which passed House Judiciary by voice vote on Sept. 13, 2018.

In the meantime, we thought you’d be interested in this tidbit: that in these contentious times, Republicans and Democrats agree that no one – not even Supreme Court justices – should ignore basic ethical obligations.


* “Not later than one year after the date of the enactment of this section, the Judicial Conference shall issue a code of conduct, which applies to each justice and judge of the United States, except that the code of conduct may include provisions that are applicable only to certain categories of judges or justices.” Full H.R. 1 text here.

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