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Following intense scrutiny regarding undisclosed vacations and gifts from affluent political donors, the Supreme Court will now implement a formal ethical code for its Justices.
On Monday, the Supreme Court revealed a code and published a 14-page document detailing the guidelines that justices adhere to and their duties.
The court acknowledged that the regulations and ideals are not novel, and for a long time have adhered to ethical standards similar to those found in common law and derived from statutory laws and other codes of ethics for federal judges.
The lack of a set of rules has caused confusion in recent times that the Justices of this Court believe themselves to be exempt from ethical guidelines, unlike other judges in the country. In order to clear up this misconception, we are releasing this Code, which primarily consists of principles that we have always followed in our behavior.
The latest ethical standards have been released following ProPublica’s extensive inquiry, which exposed that Justice Clarence Thomas had received extravagant trips and presents from Harlan Crow, a major Republican donor. None of these were reported in his previous financial disclosures.
Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Sonia Sotomayor have both been subject to examination.
Both Congress members and the general public expressed concerns about the inadequate guidelines and urged the court to establish a formal code to avoid conflicts of interest in cases where the justices were involved in making rulings.
The Pew Research reported that there was a significant decline in public trust towards the court, prompting the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Dick Durbin, to initiate an inquiry into the issue.
The updated code now includes a substantial portion outlining the guidelines for justices when handling their own and their family’s financial interests.
The code allows justices to engage in financial and business activities, but it also requires them to avoid any actions that could be seen as taking advantage of their judicial position. This includes refraining from transactions with lawyers or individuals who are likely to have cases before the Court.
The court officially accepted the Regulations on Gifts from the Judicial Conference, which outlines the appropriate ways for justices and their families to receive and report gifts.
The following passage states that although judges are allowed to engage in extrajudicial activities, they should refrain from doing so if it hinders their responsibilities, disrupts their ability to perform official duties, or casts doubt on their impartiality.
Each of the nine judges have signed and consented to follow the updated ethical code.