The United States Senate is considering legislation that would require the Supreme Court to set up a code of conduct, tighten financial disclosure rules, and bolster recusal requirements for justices. The bill would allow individual complaints against justices. Each complaint would be adjudicated by a “judicial investigation panel” of 5 chief judges from the circuit courts.
The proposed bill violates the US Constitution’s separation of powers. Supreme Court justices police their own financial disclosures and make their own recusal decisions. But since the Court as currently composed is not giving the Left the rulings it wants, progressives are attacking certain justices’ ethics.
Last month, Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines.
After the vote, six committee Republicans told reporters that, if enacted, the legislation would destroy the independence of the Supreme Court. Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) said the bill “should make every American afraid.”
A Wall Street Journal editorial argues, “The nine justices are appointees with lifetime tenure under the Constitution in order to insulate them from political pressure.” Enacting this bill would do the opposite. The Journal points out that “Legislators are political actors accountable to voters for their relationships with campaign contributors and interest groups.” The Founders created the judiciary, under Article III of the Constitution, as a separate and co-equal branch of government.
The Journal emphasizes, “While Congress established the lower federal courts, the Constitution created the Supreme Court which sets its own rules.” Congress has no power to set rules for the Court or dictate how it is run.
Justice Samuel Alito told the Journal he and the other justices voluntarily follow the disclosure statutes that lower court judges and executive branch officials adhere to. But, he says, “No provision in the US Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period.”
The Senate must block this attempt to intimidate justices and control the Court.