In response to Associated Press investigative articles on the Supreme Court, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee stated on Tuesday that it was time for the justices to bring their behavior in line with the ethical norms of other arms of government.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., stated that if they just established the fundamental principles of every other body of government, “it would give us much more confidence in their integrity.
He made his remarks while participating in the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, as a member of the American delegation.
The AP published articles demonstrating how Justice Sonia Sotomayor, assisted by her staff, has increased book sales through college visits over the past ten years; how universities have used justices’ visits as a way to entice wealthy donors to donate money; and how justices have taken expenses-paid teaching trips to appealing locations with little to no actual classroom instruction.
The series follows reports from the previous six months that sparked ethical questions about the justices’ actions.
A vote on the proposed legislation that would oblige the court to establish an ethics code is scheduled for next week, according to Durbin and other Washington-area politicians.
Although the proposal is unlikely to succeed, it expresses displeasure with the court. The Supreme Court of the United States operates without an ethics code and instead abides by what Chief Justice John Roberts has referred to as a set of fundamental “ethics principles and practices.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who serves on the Judiciary Committee and was questioned about the AP stories on Tuesday, called them “strong reports” that amount to a “drip-by-drip-by-drip indictment of a Supreme Court that looks liable to no one for ethical violations.
The chief justice really ought to be taking these into account for the sake of the court and the country because the Supreme Court will no longer exist as a truly viable institution if it continues to fail to face the need for a code of ethics,” he said.