President Trump is about to announce his nominee to the Supreme Court.
Given that it’s likely to be a federal appeals court judge, we want to point out how that the individual, should he or she be confirmed, will upon confirmation have a series of rules he or she will no longer have to follow.
Lower federal judges, for example, are bound by the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act and its amendments, which set out a process where complaints may be brought against judges, which are then adjudicated by judicial councils and may be appealed to the Judicial Conference. Culpable judges may be removed from cases, forced to undergo sensitivity training or publicly censured. Not so for SCOTUS, whose high bar of impeachment may act as a deterrent against bringing claims of misconduct forward.
Federal judges are also required to follow the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges. Not so for SCOTUS.
Details about the privately funded seminars that federal judges periodically attend are regularly posted online. Not so for SCOTUS.
Finally, in 11 (and soon to be 12) of the 13 federal courts of appeals, audio files of oral arguments are often posted online within a day of the hearing, and two (and soon to be three) of them allow video recording. Not so for SCOTUS.
There are similar rules and regulations for state supreme court judges that do not exist for SCOTUS. Plus, as we’ve noted, members of Congress have significantly more rules – and could theoretically modify current ethics regulations to include SCOTUS.
It’s unfortunate, then, that whoever President Trump nominates to fill the high court vacancy will have more responsibility yet less accountability should he or she be sworn in as the ninth justice.
This is an important fact to remember during confirmation hearings held next month and in future confirmation processes.