The Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act was approved by a vote of 11 to 10 in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill, if passed, would mandate that justices adopt a code of conduct and establish a straightforward procedure for the public to submit ethical complaints against court members.
The bill needs a vote of 60 senators to advance. Then the bill goes to the House to become law.
In addition, the act would force justices to recuse themselves from cases in which they had a conflict of interest. In addition, the measure stipulates that the Supreme Court must implement disclosure standards for gifts, travel, and money received by justices and law clerks that are just as stringent as the transparency rules in the Senate and the House. It would demand better disclosure of the money behind amicus curiae papers to the court and form a panel of top judges from the lower courts to examine and make suggestions in response to complaints.
Sen. Lindsey Graham accused Democrats of attempting to “destroy” the court as a form of retaliation for recent landmark decisions made by the court’s conservative majority to overturn the constitutional right to abortion, reject affirmative action policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, and invalidate President Biden’s student loan relief program. In addition, he accused Democrats of seeking to enlarge the Supreme Court to lessen the authority of conservative justices. As evidence, he pointed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s warning to conservative Supreme Court judges at a rally held outside the court in March of 2020.
That claim was refuted by Dick Durbin, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who stated that the changes would be applied uniformly and with equal severity to all of the justices.
Durbin mentioned that he had initially pushed Chief Justice John Roberts to create a mandatory code of conduct 11 years ago, but Roberts did not consider his recommendation then. Since then, more tales have come to light about ethical breaches committed by justices on the Supreme Court, and as a result, the faith of the American people in the court has reached an all-time low.