Fix the Court's Recent Accomplishments (2023-24)

1. The Supreme Court has a Code of Conduct. We’re pleased to have played a role in making this happen, which confirms that public pressure works.

2. SCOTUS ethics is its own news beat. We’re no longer a lonely voice in the darkness. Newsrooms and nonprofits across the country are investing in research on judicial conduct and conflicts to ensure a fairer court system.

3. Our research has fueled that beat. We’ve uncovered new and exclusive details about judicial junkets, lavish gifts, missed recusals, financial disclosure omissions and more. And that’s not just at SCOTUS but across the entire federal judiciary and in some state courts.

4. And it’s not just the federal courts that are having ethics issues. To help journalists, advocacy groups and others uncover lapses in state courts, we’ve created a one-of-a-kind database that explains how to obtain copies of state judges’ and justices’ financial disclosures, with links to the disclosures of each state’s chief justice.

5. Bills to impose biennial SCOTUS appointments and prospective 18-year term limits have been introduced. Ending life tenure has been discussed for decades, but it wasn’t until we came along that members of Congress coalesced around the contours of a proposal and introduced it as legislation.

6. Judges and justices are now required to post their financial disclosure reports and details of their stock transactions online. Disclosures used to be a pain to obtain, and stock reports were simply not generated. Now we get both online, thanks to a 2022 law that we, along with Free Law Project and Project on Government Oversight, championed.

7. Every federal appeals court, including SCOTUS, livestreams its proceedings. Though the catalyst for change was the pandemic, we’d been working for years, with some success, to get the 13 circuit courts to offer live audio of its most compelling cases. Now we work to ensure these courts plus SCOTUS don’t backslide to their sundry pre-pandemic levels of broadcast access.

8. Lawmakers are using the annual appropriations process to influence judicial ethics policy. In other words, the courts could lose money if they don’t implement stronger and transparency and accountability measures. Using the power of the purse is something we’ve long advocated for, and efforts are underway in both the House and Senate.

9. There remains bipartisan agreement across many judicial reform issues. Yes, it’s the age of hyperpartisanship. But even in 2024, there’s bipartisan agreement that access to court records should be free; more courts should livestream and allow cameras; judicial branch staff need more workplace protections; judicial security and cognitive wellness programs needs more resources; and the judiciary needs more judges to handle its burgeoning caseloads.

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