Supreme Court Approves Code Of Conduct

The United States Supreme Court made a significant change this week as it announced a modified ethics code. The move came after several justices accepted gifts or payments from political sources.

The court announced its new Code of Conduct on Monday. The justices wrote that they agreed on the new guide “to set out succinctly and gather in one place the ethics rules and principles that guide the conduct of the Members of the Court.”

The court justices wrote that the “rules and principles” behind the code were “not new.”

The justices wrote that the Supreme Court “has long had the equivalent of common law ethics rules, that is, a body of rules derived from a variety of sources, including statutory provisions, the code that applies to other members of the federal judiciary, ethics advisory opinions issued by the Judicial Conference Committee on Codes of Conduct and historic practice.”

However, the high court judges wrote that because the Supreme Court did not have a formal code prior to this one, there was a “misunderstanding that the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules.”

“To dispel this misunderstanding, we are issuing this Code, which largely represents a codification of principles that we have long regarded as governing our conduct,” they wrote.

The new code of conduct comes after two of the court’s members received criticism over accepting gifts and payments that could be construed as an appearance of a conflict of interest.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor accepted $3.6 million from the publisher Penguin Random House since 2010.

However, when cases came before the court that could affect the publisher and its subsidiaries financially, Sotomayor did not recuse herself.

In one of the cases, Sotomayor ruled the same year that the publisher released her memoir. Even as the justice did not recuse herself, her then-colleague Justice Stephen Breyer removed himself from the case since he had received money from the publisher.

She also played a role in a 2020 case in another case the same year she received another substantial payment from the publisher.

Justice Clarence Thomas has also received criticism for accepting gifts from a conservative backer he considers a personal friend.