Center for American Progress

11/13/2023 | Press release | Archived content

STATEMENT: Supreme Court’s Code of Ethics Is ‘Window Dressing’ That Fails To Address Rampant Ethics Problems

Washington, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that the justices had agreed to adopt a code of conduct. In response, Devon Ombres, senior director for Courts and Legal Policy at the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:

This code of conduct is mere window dressing that does nothing to fix the court's rampant ethics problems. It uses the word "should" to address the justices' conduct 51 times, but the words "shall," "must," or "may not" don't appear in the text of the code itself. This does nothing to address the concerns that Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have been pampered on luxury vacations through the largesse of billionaire activists and litigants with business before the court. It provides no mechanism for enforcement and provides no repercussions for justices who violate the letter or spirit of the code. And there is no guarantee that justices will be required to recuse themselves from cases where there is an appearance of impropriety.

The Supreme Court can and must do better in holding itself to the highest standards of conduct and ethics. Failing to do so undermines the court's authority and fails the American people. Congress must pass a binding, enforceable ethics code that treats the justices just like other federal judges and lawmakers.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at [email protected].