US Chief Justice John Roberts arrives before President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 7, 2023. (Photo by JACQUELYN MARTIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
OAN Brooke Mallory
UPDATED 5:38 PM – Wednesday, April 26, 2023
According to a letter released on Tuesday, Chief Justice John Roberts declined to appear at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on potential ethics reform for the Supreme Court.
Roberts, or another delegated justice, had been requested to testify before the committee to address questions on the rules of the bench by Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate Majority whip and chair of the Judiciary subcommittee.
For the chief justice of the United States to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to Roberts, is “exceedingly rare,” a precedent that is essential for maintaining the separation of powers and judicial independence.
All presiding justices are required to abide by the High Court’s Statement of Ethics Principles and Practices, which he also attached.
A ProPublica article published earlier this month had accused Thomas of accepting pricey gifts and vacation trips from Harlan Crow, a wealthy Texas Republican fundraiser. This prompted Durbin to host the hearing.
“There has been a steady stream of revelations regarding justices falling short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges and, indeed, of public servants generally,” Durbin wrote to Roberts, asserting that “the status quo is no longer tenable” while urging him to appear.
Durbin’s response to the news was sent to the press by a spokesperson for the senator. He insisted that Roberts was abdicating to present standards while ignoring the “obvious” ethical conundrum in the Justice Clarence Thomas controversy.
“The actions of one Justice, including trips on yachts and private jets, were not reported to the public,” the spokesperson said. “That same Justice failed to disclose the sale of properties he partly owned to a party with interests before the Supreme Court.”
“It is time for Congress to accept its responsibility to establish an enforceable code of ethics for the Supreme Court, the only agency of our government without it,” they maintained.
This follows the revelation that, in 2017, shortly after being nominated to the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch sold a vacation property for an undisclosed sum to Brian L. Duffy, the CEO of Greenberg Traurig.
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