The United States Supreme Court recently set out a “Code of Conduct” to “gather in one place the ethics rules and principles that guide the conduct of the members of the court.” All nine justices signed it.
They have done this in response to pressure from groups on the Left who want Congress to put into place “ethics” requirements for Supreme Court Justices.
Enacting such legislation would intensify political accusations against justices and bring endless recusal fights in hot-button cases. And that’s the point. The Left seeks to weaken — really neuter — the Court because it’s not getting the rulings it wants.
Should Congress impose an ethics code on justices, it would violate the US Constitution’s separation of powers. The Founders created the judiciary, under Article III of the Constitution, as a separate and co-equal branch of government.
Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus criticized the justices’ document as inadequate, writing that it tells lawmakers, “You’re not the boss of me.”
That’s exactly what the Court should say.
Supreme Court justices police their own financial disclosures and make their own recusal decisions.
A Wall Street Journal editorial published last summer argues, “The nine justices are appointees with lifetime tenure under the Constitution in order to insulate them from political pressure.” 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.
The rules and principles laid out in the justice’s code are not new. The document is likely meant to deter any action by Congress. Justice Samuel Alito told The Journal, “No provision in the U.S. Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period.”
Last summer Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s draconian ethics bill passed the Judiciary Committee along party lines. If this legislation was ever enacted, it would destroy the independence of the Supreme Court.