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Senate Briefly Considers Using Its Article I Power to Rein in SCOTUS Abuses

By Olivia Rae Okun-Dubitsky, FTC intern

All of Washington is talking about the lack of a concrete ethics code at the Supreme Court, and Thursday it appeared that the Senate Appropriations Committee might do something about it.

Fix the Court has for years pushed the Committee to use its power of the purse to compel the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, to adopt several pro-transparency and pro-accountability policies, the theory being that if the Court does not want to modernize, lawmakers can sequester some of its funding until they do.

During Thursday’s markup of the federal judiciary’s FY24 budget, Sen. Van Hollen (D-Md.; at right) introduced an amendment that would withhold $10 million in funding for the Court until a code of ethics was established.

There were two important caveats to the amendment, though: first, that the sequester would not affect security funding; and second, the details of the code of ethics would be left up to the Court’s discretion.

Van Hollen, who chairs the subcommittee of jurisdiction, said, “There’s no reason the highest court in the land should have the lowest ethical standards.”

Sen. Hagerty (R-Tenn.), the leading Republican on the subcommittee, disagreed, arguing that Congress stepping in to create a code of ethics would lower the public’s confidence in the Court — an argument FTC finds to be ridiculous.

While the amendment was ultimately withdrawn, it is a sign that momentum is building in Congress and that the time for court reform is now.

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