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Monday, December 11, 2023

Will the Supreme Court's Ethics Code Make Any Difference

The introduction to the Supreme Court’s new ethics code says that it is just a recap of existing principles.

Not quite, as I explain in my new column for The Hill. Here is the gist:

Will the Supreme Court’s new code make it more or less ethical? 

by Steven Lubet, opinion contributor - 12/11/23

Despite the justices’ insistence that the code only restates their existing “common law” ethics rules, there are, in fact, provisions that revise or contradict several of the court’s previous statements and practices, for better or worse.

If the provision on congressional testimony may broaden the court’s public responsiveness, another aspect of the code — in this case, the absence of a provision — seems to backtrack on an earlier commitment to greater transparency.

A “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices,” issued by the court on April 25, and signed by all nine justices, addressed the criticism that they seldom provide reasons for their recusals. Although short of an unqualified commitment, the justices stated that in most circumstances “a Justice may provide a summary explanation of a recusal decision.”

Regrettably, it seems that the justices’ commitment to even that level of transparency was short-lived. There is no provision for recusal explanations in either the code itself or the five-page commentary appended to it.

You can read the full essay in The Hill.

Posted by Steve Lubet on December 11, 2023 at 10:47 AM | Permalink


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