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Supreme Court Adopts Code of Conduct Amid Ethics Concerns

By Jorge Vasquez Suarez

Staff Writer

For the nation’s high court judges, the days of living large on a donor’s dime could be coming to an end.


Following waves of public scrutiny some justices received due to their undisclosed luxury trips and association with infamous wealthy figures, on November 13, the U.S. Supreme Court published a Code of Conduct, emphasizing the justices’ adherence to federal judiciary integrity and independence.


According to ProPublica, Justice Clarence Thomas was revealed to have accepted at least thirty-eight luxury vacation trips from far-right, wealthy figures, which raised questions about the court’s susceptibility to influence and lack of ethics. Justice Thomas failed to report flights, yacht cruises, resort stays, and premium tickets to sporting events, which, according to legal experts, violates federal law.


Subsequent reporting by The Associated Press found that Justice Sonia Sotomayor used Court staff to pressure institutions that hosted her as a speaker to buy copies of her books.


The Code of Conduct outlines five canons, which contain subclauses that expand on them and explicitly state the justices’ permitted and prohibited behavior. The Code highlights one central message that the court must follow: justices should remain impartial and should not let outside factors influence their judiciary conduct or judgment.


Canon Two, subclause B, which pertains to “Outside Influence,” for example, states, “A justice should not allow. . . relationships to influence official conduct or judgment.”


Although many see the Code of Conduct as a step in the right direction to maintain and uphold objectiveness, it has drawn criticism from the public for the lack of enforcement.


“However, the lack of any way to enforce the code of conduct should any Justice decide to ignore it is a glaring omission,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.


Currently, there is no explicit plan of action to enforce the Supreme Court Code of Conduct, calling into question how binding it really is.

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