Supreme Court
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D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton reintroduced Friday a resolution requesting that the Supreme Court subject itself to the ethics code that applies to other federal judges.

The Code of Conduct for United States Judges, adopted by the Judicial Conference of the United States, an administrative arm of the federal judiciary chaired by the Supreme Court’s chief justice, provides standards for recusals for avoiding various ethics matters that arise in the administration of justice.

The code doesn’t apply to Supreme Court justices, who have unreviewable authority to determine conflicts of interest would undermine their ability to hear and decide a case fairly and without the appearance of bias.

Attention to the ethics of the Supreme Court came to light recently when it was revealed that Associate Justice Clarence Thomas accepted gifts and trips from a Dallas Republican donor.

The resolution aims to further public integrity and bolster confidence in an institution that in recent years has been criticized concerning issues related to conflicts of interest and whose members have been subject to demands for recusal from cases.

“Recent revelations about Justice Thomas’ inappropriate acceptance of trips from a GOP donor illustrate the importance of an ethics code for the highest court in the nation,” said Norton, a retired constitutional law professor at the Georgetown Law Center. “We cannot afford further erosion of trust in the Supreme Court, which has historically been the arbiter of the most controversial and weighty issues in our country. My resolution would help the court eliminate ethics controversies by encouraging it to adopt the same Code that applies to all other federal judges. Each branch of government has a part in carrying out the nation’s laws, so none is above the law.”

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