U.S. Supreme Court

Does legal recruiting career of chief justice’s wife create ethics issues? Critic sends details of her pay to Congress

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AP John Roberts Jane Sullivan Roberts

Then-Chief Justice nominee John Roberts and his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, during a break in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2005. Photo by Evan Vucci/The Associated Press.

A former legal recruiter who sued over his firing is alleging that the paychecks earned by his former colleague and lawsuit defendant, Jane Sullivan Roberts, raise ethics issues for her husband, Chief Justice John Roberts.

The fired recruiter, 66-year-old Boston lawyer Kendal Price, has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and Congress seeking an inquiry, the New York Times reports.

Price included records disclosed in the suit indicating that Jane Sullivan Roberts has earned millions of dollars from placing lawyers at law firms, including firms with business before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Price and Jane Sullivan Roberts worked at legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa. Price, who lost his firing suit, argues that the justices should have to disclose more information about their spouses’ jobs and incomes, according to the New York Times.

Justices have to disclose the sources of their spouses’ income, the type of work and the dates, according to the New York Times. The chief justice has listed his wife’s employers but not the names of her clients or the amount of money that she made.

Jane Sullivan Roberts is now the managing partner of Macrae Inc.’s Washington, D.C., office. She has previously said she avoids working with lawyers who have active cases before the Supreme Court.

A court spokeswoman told the New York Times that Chief Justice Roberts had consulted the conduct code for federal judges, as well as a 2009 advisory opinion that said a judge “need not recuse merely because” their spouse worked as a recruiter for a firm.

Fix the Court, a Supreme Court transparency group, had joined in a letter to lawmakers last year, asking them to “close a disclosure loophole.” The letter said judges and justices should be required to disclose spousal income of $5,000 or more in a year for legal, consulting or related work. The amount of compensation and the entity paying it should be reported, the letter said.

Fix the Court noted its letter last year and issued a statement following the New York Times story. The statement called on the Supreme Court to adopt a comprehensive ethics code.

“We need more disclosure from judges and justices about spousal engagements that result in major paydays,” the statement said. “And we need a neutral third party at the court whose job it is to help the justices navigate their ethical responsibilities.”

Supreme Court justices are the only judges in the nation who don’t have a binding written code of ethics.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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