By Tyler Cooper, FTC senior researcher
At a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Federal Courts today, Sen. Lindsay Graham reaffirmed his support for increased travel disclosure from Supreme Court justices — and that he believes this is something that should have bipartisan support.
“I have a serious problem with the current system […] I’m not saying they’re not [persons of high integrity]. I feel that way about my colleagues [too] — it’s a public confidence thing — I think there’s bipartisan support, Mr. Chairman, to rein in sort of how the court operates to make it more transparent to the public […] I make this point that there is bipartisan support for controlling the sort of interaction of the court in the private sector, to make it more transparent, to make sure there is no appearance of impropriety — count me in for that.”
In his statement Sen. Graham framed the issue as one of public accountability — that holding Supreme Court justices to the same transparency standards that members of Congress and top executive branch officials already provide for their own travel is something that should be done to counter not only actual impropriety but also the appearance of impropriety.
This is hardly the first time the senator has expressed this perspective. Just over a year ago he crossed the aisle to join with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to send a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts that called for SCOTUS to live up to the financial disclosure standards already set by the other two branches of government. They wrote:
“We believe a legislative solution may be in order to bring the judiciary’s financial disclosure requirements in line with other branches of government if the Court does not address the issue itself.”
The Supreme Court has declined to take any meaningful steps over the last year toward providing the sort of disclosure the senators called for in their letter, so we hope lawmakers will come together again to ensure the third branch provides these overdue measures of transparency.