U.S. Supreme Court

Chief justice says he’s committed to making sure SCOTUS adheres to highest conduct standards

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SCOTUS Roberts Court June 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court as composed June 30, 2022, to present. Photo by Fred Schilling via the Supreme Court website.

Updated: Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday evening he is committed to making sure that the U.S. Supreme Court adheres to the highest conduct standards.

Roberts spoke to the American Law Institute, which has awarded him its Henry J. Friendly Medal.

The Washington Post reports that Roberts made this statement: “I want to assure people that I’m committed to making certain that we as a court adhere to the highest standards of conduct. We are continuing to look at things we can do to give practical effect to that commitment. And I am confident that there are ways to do that consistent with our status as an independent branch of government and the Constitution’s separation of powers.”

Reuters and Bloomberg Law also have coverage.

The ABA House of Delegates passed a resolution in February calling on the Supreme Court to adopt a binding code of ethics for justices.

While federal law imposes some ethics standards on justices, they don’t have to follow “the full sweep of basic ethical principles” that apply to other judges, according to the resolution that passed the ABA House.

Roberts’ comments followed controversies surrounding Justice Clarence Thomas, who has traveled on a superyacht owned by billionaire friend and Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, stayed at Crow’s private resort, received two years of private school tuition for his nephew from Crow, and sold Crow some properties that he jointly owned.

Justice Elena Kagan presented the medal to Thomas, who once clerked for Friendly. Kagan praised Roberts’ writing style, according to a May 23 press release.

“The chief is incapable of writing a bad sentence. His writing has depth, intelligence, crystal clarity, grace, humor and understated style,” she said.

Kagan pointed out, however, that she and Roberts don’t agree on many matters, “except apparently about copyright, where we are two kindred souls,” she said, according to Bloomberg Law.

Kagan and Roberts dissented this month, when the Supreme Court ruled for a photographer who contended that artist Andy Warhol infringed her copyright when he made a silkscreen based on her photo of singer Prince.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Supreme Court justices should follow binding code of ethics, ABA House says”

Updated May 25 at 4:04 p.m. to include information on the ABA resolution.

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