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Supreme Court is Ethical!

By Emilia Fedasz

Staff Writer

On Monday, November 13, 2023, The United States Supreme Court made headlines by adopting for the first time ever a “code of conduct.” The fifteen-page document is posted on the official Supreme Court website and comprises three sections. The first section contained an introduction, the second section contained the actual code of conduct, and the third and final section contained a commentary on the previously outlined codes.

The Supreme Court (Photo courtesy of NPR)

The introduction referenced the code as “rules and principles (that) are not new” but rather as an official document whose purpose is to “dispel this misunderstanding” that “the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules.” The goal of the code was to create an official document outlining the ethical principles that the Justices follow to dispel the idea that the Justices do not follow an ethical code of conduct.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts stresses need for judicial independence

Chief Justice John Roberts (Photo courtesy of NBC News)

The actual code of conduct comprised eight pages and highlighted the responsibilities and activities that a Justice may and may not partake in. Specifically, a page and a half were dedicated to instances when a Justice should disqualify themselves from a case. Such instances included if the Justice has a personal bias, if the Justice had previously represented a party, et cetera. The code also emphasized the activities, such as law-related and financial activities that the Justices may and may not partake in. For example, the code states that the Justices may engage in law-related activities such as speaking, writing, lecturing, and teaching when it relates to the law. But there were several provisions to go along with that statement, such as the Justices should not participate in a meeting if the Justice knows the organizational group has a substantial financial interest in a case before the Court.

The final portion of the code was the commentary. The commentary consists of five pages where the Justices interpreted the code of conduct.

The code was unanimously signed by all nine justices.  However, the Code of Conduct quickly received criticism from the public as it contains no enforcement mechanism.

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