After a series of revelations concerning the justices’ gifts, luxury travel, and property dealings, retired conservative judge J. Michael Luttig joined legal experts on Tuesday to call on Congress to implement standards of ethics for justices of the Supreme Court.
Republicans and two conservative witnesses spoke out against efforts to establish an ethics code for the judges, claiming that doing so was an act of sheer partisanship by liberals irritated by the court’s conservative majority.
Democrats saw establishing an ethics code for the Supreme Court as an essential step in preventing misconduct and conflicts of interest.
Illinois Democrat and committee chairman Richard J. Durbin disingenuously asked, “How low can the court go?”
Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator, said that Democrats were trying to “cherry-pick” instances of lavish spending on trips and gifts by conservative justices.
Judge Luttig wished that Congress and the court would approach the issue of judicial ethics guidelines “with the solemnity and wisdom” that the matter calls for.
The fervent call for ethics and its violations seems conveniently timed in light of recent discoveries regarding justices’ acceptance of gifts, trips, and property deals. The “crisis” is urgent now that Justice Thomas failed to declare his relationship with Harlan Crow, a wealthy Republican supporter, who provided him with gifts, trips, and a real estate deal.
Though suggestions have been made in recent years that the judges establish guidelines for their conduct, the justices themselves have made no such public announcement.
The right has given examples of left-leaning justices that were not called out by the left.
Sotomayor received cash for a book deal with Penguin Random House yet never recused herself from cases that would significantly impact that publisher.
There was no backlash when Ruth Bader Ginsburg accepted an award from the Woman’s National Democratic Club. Predominantly left-wing journalists celebrated the political honor bestowed upon a judge who was supposed to be apolitical.