Although it feels like every day there’s a new ethics scandal at the Supreme Court, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) thinks the court is doing just fine resolving any ethical problems on its own.
Kennedy appeared on Fox to complain about Democratic legislation requiring the Supreme Court to adopt a binding code of ethics. The bill has advanced out of the Judiciary Committee but has little chance of passing the Senate, The Washington Post says. Even though its contents would seem like a no-brainer. From WaPo:
In addition to mandating the creation of an ethics code specific to the nine justices, proposals in the ethics bill include requiring the Supreme Court to strengthen its recusal requirements, bringing the court’s hospitality and financial disclosure rules in line with those of Congress, setting transparency guidelines for amicus briefs filed at the court, and allowing the public to submit ethics complaints against the justices.
Kennedy told Fox host Neil Cavuto, “Some of the proponents of the bill have said the Supreme Court needs a code of conduct. That’s not accurate.” He said the Supreme Court amended their code of conduct last spring and may do so again.
FACT CHECK: The current code of conduct is voluntary and has not been updated. More from The Washington Post:
The justices have discussed but not reached consensus on a binding policy, despite talks dating to at least 2019. Instead, they have opted to comply voluntarily with the ethics standards that govern federal judges, including recusals from cases in which they or close family members might have a financial interest.
In April, all nine justices signed a “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices” that outlined their existing approach to ethics. The statement was sent to the Judiciary Committee but did not include new proposals or guidelines.
Kennedy went on to claim that it’s unconstitutional for Congress to pass an ethics law for the Supreme Court. (The Brennan Center for Justice says otherwise, pointing out that “Since the founding, Congress has played a central role in regulating the ethical conduct of the justices.”)
Cavuto seemed skeptical. “So, the Supreme Court should police itself, that’s what you’re saying. What if it doesn’t though?” he asked.
“They are policing themselves. They have a code of conduct,” Kennedy said. Even though it obviously isn’t working.
“Will that code of conduct change the way some trips weren’t reported or gifts weren’t shared or publicized? Do you know that?” Cavuto asked.
Kennedy maintained, “it already has changed.” He added, “Now, if you accept food or expensive lodging or a private airplane trip, you have to disclose that.”
“What happens then to justices who might violate that in the future?” Cavuto asked. “Does the Supreme Court have the power to say you have to go?”
Kennedy said he didn’t know. “I just believe that under the separation of powers doctrine, Congress can’t regulate the internal affairs of the court.” He claimed that members of Congress are just trying to “hurt this court.”
What about justices who got expensive trips and “very nice gifts?” Cavuto asked.
Kennedy didn’t answer the question. He said that if the question is whether members of the court can be bought “with a vacation … the short answer is no and the long answer is hell no.”
You can watch it below, from the July 24, 2023 Your World.
(Note: Ellen provided the research for this post)