U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Kagan sees need for SCOTUS ethics code, comments on why courts overturn things 'willy-nilly'

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SCOTUS Roberts Court June 2022

“There are, you know, totally good-faith disagreements or concerns” on an ethics code, said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. Photo by Fred Schilling via the Supreme Court website.

Justice Elena Kagan on Friday backed an ethics code for the U.S. Supreme Court but said she didn’t want to suggest that any single holdout is keeping the high court from acting.

Kagan said the Supreme Court could adapt a code of conduct used by other court systems, “and I think it would be a good thing for the court to do that,” report Law360 and Law.com.

The New York Times and NBC News also have coverage of Kagan’s remarks during a livestreamed interview at the Notre Dame Law School.

“There are, you know, totally good-faith disagreements or concerns” on an ethics code, she said, according to the New York times. “There are some things to be worked out. I hope we can get them worked out.”

Kagan was responding to questions by G. Marcus Cole, the dean of the Notre Dame Law School. She spoke on the same day that ProPublica reported that Justice Clarence Thomas has attended at least two donor events organized by the Koch network.

Kagan acknowledged that there have at times been ideological divides on the issue of precedent.

Adherence to precedent is important, Kagan said, because it prevents the Supreme Court from looking like a political actor, according to the New York Times.

“When courts just overrule things, willy-nilly, it’s usually because, or sometimes it’s because, new judges have come on the scene,” she said. And that leads people to people think “that courts are just sort of making it up on the fly.”

See also:

“No summer break for Supreme Court ethics debate”

“ABA task force recommends ethics and transparency changes for Supreme Court”

“Supreme Court justices should follow binding code of ethics, ABA House says”

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