There’s been a lot of chatter about requiring Supreme Court justices to adhere to an ethics code, just like all other members of the federal judiciary must do.
This week, there was one surprising backer of such a plan – conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
While speaking at an event at the University of Minnesota Law School on Monday, Barrett said it would be a “good idea” for the high court to adopt an ethics code. She said as much while speaking with the former COO of the American Bar Association, Robert Stein.
Barrett said of the idea of an ethics code:
“It would be a good idea for us to do it … particularly so that we can communicate to the public exactly what it is that we are doing in a clearer way.”
She added that she believed other justices on the bench broadly supported the general idea of an ethics code, which is something that judges of lower federal courts have to follow.
As she explained:
“There is no lack of consensus among the justices. There’s unanimity among all nine justices that we should and do hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards possible.”
The only federal court that doesn’t force its members to abide by an ethics code is the Supreme Court. Despite the fact that they don’t have to follow a formal code, they still do have to follow some rules, including filing various financial disclosures every year.
The issue of forcing the Supreme Court to adopt an ethics code came up in the spring, following news that conservative Justice Clarence Thomas accepted many gifts – including travel and vacations – from one of his close friends, Harlan Crow, who is a billionaire donor to the Republican Party.
That information surfaced after some allegations that Thomas didn’t report those trips. He defended his actions, saying that he wasn’t forced to report them since they came from a close personal friend.
As he said at the time about his family’s relationship with Crow’s:
“As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them. Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable.”
Thomas isn’t the only justice who’s faced criticism recently for ethical concerns.
Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor has reportedly had her staff set up different speaking events for her to promote children’s books and the memoir she has written. Through those books and speaking events, she’s earned more than $3.7 million.
Conservative Justice Samuel Alito has also been accused of failing to report a luxury fishing trip to Alaska that he took back in 2008. He traveled to that trip on a private jet along with Paul Singer, who’s a billionaire hedge fund operator.