When Montana-based District Judge Richard Cebull drew criticism for forwarding a racist joke from his government email account, he asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to conduct an investigation to determine if his actions should be considered judicial misconduct.
That's because the judicial misconduct proceedings clearly define how the federal courts can address district and circuit judges' questionable antics. There's no similar guide for Supreme Court shenanigans.
Rep. Louise Slaughter wants to see that change.
Rep. Slaughter, now known for leading the charge to ban insider-trading in Congress through the STOCK Act, is championing the movement toward a Supreme Court code of ethics. Slaughter claims, "Because the Supreme Court does not adhere to the code of conduct for [other] United States judges, they have granted themselves immunity from the standards of behavior that apply to every other justice in the land," reports the Democrat and Chronicle.
Slaughter's stance is at odds with the Court's position. In his year-end report, Chief Justice Roberts said that the lack of the Supreme Court ethics code wasn't a problem.
After discussing the history of high ethical standards among federal jurists, and explaining why the Supreme Court "has no reason to adopt the [Judicial Conference] Code of Conduct as its definitive source of ethical guidance," Chief Justice Roberts expressed "complete confidence" in his colleagues' abilities to decide when recusal is warranted, stating, "They are jurists of exceptional integrity and experience whose character and fitness have been examined through a rigorous appointment and confirmation process."
Justice Roberts' confidence, however, is not enough to appease Slaughter.
According to Rep. Slaughter, 31 members of Congress have signed a letter to Chief Justice Roberts urging the Court to adopt a formal judicial code of ethics. Government watchdog groups and hundreds of law professors have signed on to similar letters, reports the Democrat and Chronicle.
Is it time for the Nine to reconsider and adopt a Supreme Court code of ethics?
- Recusal Refusal: Moving on With the Individual Mandate Challenge (FindLaw's Supreme Court Blog)
- Clarence Thomas Didn't Report $700K Paid to His Wife: House Dems (FindLaw's Strategist)
- First Elena Kagan, Now Clarence Thomas: The Case for Recusal (FindLaw's Supreme Court Blog)