House subcommittee hearing to cover reforms to ethics, financial disclosure and recusal practices
Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth will join legal scholars at a House Judiciary Courts Subcommittee hearing tomorrow, June 21, at 9:00 a.m., in 2141 Rayburn, to discuss bipartisan proposals for modernizing a number of opaque, neo-Luddite practices in the federal judiciary.
In his testimony, Roth will discuss why the Supreme Court should adopt an ethics code, describe why judges and justices should give explanations for their periodic recusals and explain how the U.S. Courts could post financial disclosure reports online without comprising privacy.
Who: Gabe Roth, Executive Director, Fix the Court
Amanda Frost, Professor of Law, American University Washington College of Law
Charles Geyh, John F. Kimberling Professor of Law, Maurer School of Law at Indiana University Bloomington
Russell Wheeler, Visiting Fellow, Brookings Institution
What: Hearing on “The Federal Judiciary in the 21st Century: Ideas for Promoting Ethics, Accountability, and Transparency”
Where: House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Courts, IP and the Internet, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building
When: 9:00 a.m.
Tomorrow marks the first time the Judiciary Committee is taking up pro-transparency reforms since Sept. 13, 2018, when it passed, by voice vote, the ROOM Act, which would have permitted live audio and video in appellate courts, created a SCOTUS conduct code, required recusal explanations and made PACER free.
“All of the court modernization proposals being considered by the Judiciary Committee are ideologically neutral and would help the American public better understand and better trust the work of the judiciary,” Roth said. “Even as the Judicial Conference finds new excuses each Congress for why these measures should not be put into practice, the bipartisan support for reform legislation has only grown in recent years, and I expect big things from this Congress, beginning with tomorrow’s hearing.”
Below are some excerpts from Roth’s testimony:
On ethics: “The impartiality of our judiciary should be beyond reproach, so having a basic ethics code for its members to follow is a natural outgrowth of that common value, one that should be no less rigorously applied to our nation’s highest court.”
On disclosures: “To the outside observer, the current protocol makes it seem as if the judiciary is hiding something. […] With members of the judiciary already filling out and filing their reports digitally, the public should obtain them the same way, without having my organization act as the middleman.”
On recusals: “The exercise of appending a few words of explanation to a recusal notice would […] assist the justices in thinking more about their potential conflicts of interest, especially since Fix the Court, and the court itself, has identified several missed recusals by the justices over the last few years.”