April 26, 2023

Whitehouse Reacts to Chief Justice’s Refusal to Appear Before Senate Committee, Reups Call for Enforceable Ethics Code

Whitehouse’s SCERT Act would require the Supreme Court to adopt stricter disclosure rules and establish a process for investigating a justice’s misconduct

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) issued the following statement after the Chief Justice of the United States declined the Senate Judiciary Committee’s invitation to testify about the recently exposed ethics scandals at the Supreme Court:

“Setting aside the Chief Justice’s complete disregard of the interests of a coequal branch of government that is sincerely trying to understand a real problem, this new statement of principles has virtually no utility.  There is still no inbox to file a complaint,  no process for fact finding, no way of making ethics determinations, and thus no way of holding justices accountable.  The self-policing system has not served the American people well during the Roberts Court, and we need to pass my SCERT Act to bring the high court into line with the other branches.”

ProPublica recently reported that Republican megadonor Harlan Crow purchased several properties from Justice Clarence Thomas, and the justice did not disclose the sales on his financial disclosure forms as clearly required by law.  Whitehouse’s Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act would create a mechanism to investigate and enforce disclosure laws that are already on the books – like the one Thomas apparently broke – as well as a new code of conduct.

In addition, the SCERT Act would strengthen recusal standards for judges and disclosure rules for special interests trying to influence the courts, improve disclosure of gifts and travel for judges, and mandate the creation of a binding code of ethics.  The SCERT Act would require the Supreme Court to adopt disclosure rules for gifts, travel, and income that are at least as rigorous as ethics rules for members of Congress.  The New York Times editorial board recently endorsed the legislation.

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921

Press Contact

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921