U.S. Supreme Court adopts a code of ethics

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The U.S. Supreme Court adopted a code of ethics for the first time on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023. All nine justices signed onto the new code, which was instantly criticized for lack of an enforcement mechanism. In an unsigned statement, the justices said though there has been no formal code, they have long abided by certain standards.

Stefanie Lindquist, Executive Director for the Center for Constitutional Design at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law, joined Arizona Horizon to discuss this new code of ethics and its importance.

Read the SCOTUS Code of Ethics here.

Public trust in the court fell after Justice Clarence Thomas received gifts from Harlan Crow, a Republican donor.

This led to many people, including Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Elena Kagan to speak out in support of implementing a code of ethics.

“There’s a lot more media attention to things now so, it’s possible that the Supreme Court finally realized for the sake of the public’s perception of it’s legitimacy they do so,” Lindquist said.

The new code of ethics is 15 pages long and repeats many of the codes applied to the lower courts, but it is unique in many ways.

“The code is really repetitive of many other provisions in other judicial codes that governed the lower federal courts and it reinforces some of the disclosure requirements that are mandated under federal law,” Lindquist said.

The new code focuses on what outside relationships a justice is allowed and not allowed to have.

“What a judge is required to do is to recuse if a particular relationship for example, especially a financial one, would cause a reasonable person to suspect that the judge might not be impartial in a particular case,” Lindquist said.

This impacts them in a variety of ways, they cannot receive money for speeches, engage in political activities, be present in any political campaign etc.

Stefanie Lindquist, Executive Director for the Center for Constitutional Design at ASU's Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law

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