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Senators want ethics rules for SCOTUS

The official formal group photograph of the current U.S. Supreme Court.

The official formal group photograph of the current U.S. Supreme Court.

Fred Schilling/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States/Handout via Reuters

Two US Senators introduced a bill on Wednesday that would require the Supreme Court to introduce its own code of ethics. The bipartisan bill – sponsored by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Angus King, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats – would not dictate the standards but simply require the court to get on it within a year.

The fact that Supreme Court justices are not required to adhere to the same ethics rules as federal justices has come into sharp focus since a recent investigation by ProPublica found that Justice Clarence Thomas has taken lavish trips paid for by wealthy Republican donor Harlan Crow. (For context, federal employees have rules for giving and receiving gifts.)

Thomas, who rose to the bench in 1991 after the controversial Anita Hill hearing, did not include these trips in his financial disclosures. He also failed to note that Crow bought a house from him in Savannah, Georgia, where Thomas’s mother continues to live … rent-free. Justice Neil Gorsuch also failed to disclose crucial business dealings.

Similar proposals for ethical standards have been floated recently by Democrats in the House and the Senate. But Murkowski and King hope that this more lenient bill can get buy-in from both parties in the upper chamber, where Dems have a razor-thin majority.


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