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SCOTUS Is Done With Decisions for the Term, But the Beat (Toward Transparency) Goes On

The summer of endless petitions is in full force, but aside from wrangling over voting rights and the death penalty, here are three transparency-based updates we wanted you to know about.

1. Fix the Court and 15 other groups sent a letter to Chief Justice Roberts this morning asking the court to continue offering live argument audio. Why live audio, you ask? Here’s what we wrote:

“Real-time broadcasts not only give the public direct access to an engaging, intellectual bench; they also diminish the ability of partisan interests to color a case in ways that serve narrow ends. They offer civics lessons that cannot be replicated under the old rules, where only 50 to 100 members of the public gain entry to an argument and with audio released on Fridays being of limited use in the modern-day news cycle.”

2. Not to be outdone by the overworked House Judiciary Committee, the House Appropriations Committee is now strongly advocating for a SCOTUS ethics code and for improvements to its workplace conduct policies. In a report accompanying the judiciary’s FY21 budget, the committee urges (p. 45) “the Supreme Court to adopt a Code of Conduct applicable for the Justices” and asks that SCOTUS brief them on such a proposal within 60 days of enactment.

Then on p. 47, the committee says it’s “disappointed with the recent findings of workplace misconduct in the judiciary” and asks the AO to submit a report on the frequency of harassment complaints, the types of assistance available to victims and how the Office of Judicial Integrity (which, to date, has a single employee) is taking steps to improve workplace conduct via training and intervention programs.

3. Finally, we sent notes to the GOP and Democratic platform committees yesterday, apparently something popular to do these days, requesting that any efforts to ensure that public servants are held responsible for their actions include those in the historically unaccountable judiciary. We wrote:

“Our courts play a critical role in our democracy, and since preserving the public’s trust in them is of paramount importance, Article III officers should be brought in line with current expectations of accountability from public officials. In the coming years, efforts to enact stronger ethics regulations and clearer conflict-of-interest rules should include federal judges and justices.”

We’ll have some more updates on the cowardice of per curiam opinions, the wisdom of term limits and the pointless inconsistency of the justices’ health updates soon.

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