Supreme Court Approves New Code Of Conduct

The nine justices on the Supreme Court last Monday issued a code of conduct laying out formal ethics rules for the high court, CBS News reported.

Included in the new code of conduct are five principles the justices must follow, including avoiding “impropriety” or the “appearance of impropriety in all activities” and upholding the independence and integrity of the judicial branch.

While it is derived from the code of conduct for all federal judges, the justices said their new code of conduct has been “tailored to the Supreme Court’s placement at the head of a branch of our tripartite governmental structure.”

In their joint statement announcing the new code of conduct, the justices said it was designed to succinctly lay out in one place “the ethics rules and principles that guide the conduct of the members of the court.”

They acknowledged that the lack of a formal code of conduct had created the misconception that, unlike other jurists, the Supreme Court justices viewed themselves as being “unrestricted” by ethics rules. The justices explained that by issuing a formal code of conduct, they would “dispel this misunderstanding.”

They explained that the formal code of conduct “largely represents” the “codification of principles” that the Supreme Court has “long regarded as governing our conduct.”

The code includes a list of circumstances under which a justice should recuse himself from a proceeding, particularly when a justice’s impartiality could be “reasonably” questioned by an “unbiased and reasonable person” familiar with all of the relevant circumstances.

The code also states that while justices can engage in outside activities, they should avoid activities that might “detract from the dignity of the justice’s office,” interfere with a justice’s “official duties,” adversely affect a justice’s impartiality, result in frequent recusal, or violate specific limitations.

The code also advises that justices should not use their chambers, staff, or resources “to any substantial degree” to “engage in activities” beyond their official function or “other activities permitted under these Canons.”