U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Kavanaugh says he's hopeful for 'concrete steps' on SCOTUS ethics matters

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SCOTUS Roberts Court June 2022

“These are nine public servants who are hardworking and care a lot about the work and care a lot about the judiciary as a whole,” said U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Photo by Fred Schilling via the Supreme Court website.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh said Thursday the U.S. Supreme Court is continuing to work on ethics issues, and he is “hopeful there will be some concrete steps.”

Kavanaugh spoke in Cleveland at the annual conference of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Cincinnati, report Law360, the Associated Press and Bloomberg Law.

“These are nine public servants who are hardworking and care a lot about the work and care a lot about the judiciary as a whole,” Kavanaugh said, according to Law360. “We recognize that, with respect to the institution for the American people, each of us dedicated public servants can increase confidence. We’re working on that.”

Bloomberg Law noted that Justice Elena Kagan said last month the justices were discussing adoption of ethics rules.

“It won’t be a surprise to know that the nine of us have a variety of views,” Kagan had said when speaking at a judicial conference.

The ABA House of Delegates has called on the Supreme Court to adopt a binding code of ethics for its justices that is similar to the code for other federal judges.

On other topics, Kavanaugh said:

  • “There’s a storm around us in the political world,” and judges should try to be “the calm in the storm.” (The Associated Press)
  • The Supreme Court should grant cert in more cases. Last term, there were fewer than 60 opinions in argued cases. Kavanaugh said a good target would be about 75 cases. (Bloomberg Law)
  • Judges should not write opinions with social media in mind. “I don’t write for Twitter. I don’t write for the snazzy line that’s going to be kind of treating a party with less than full respect,” Kavanaugh said. (Bloomberg Law)
  • Justices sometimes vote in unexpected ways, showing that the Supreme Court “is an institution of law, not of politics and not of partisanship.” (Law360)
  • It’s key for justices to be consistent. “To use a baseball analogy, one umpire might have a narrow strike zone, one umpire might have a bigger strike zone, but that’s fine, as long as it’s consistent. You don’t want an umpire favoring the Red Sox and every call going against the Yankees.” (Law360)

See also:

“No summer break for Supreme Court ethics debate”

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

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