When congressional Democrats crafted H.R. 1, they included a provision that Republicans do not want enacted because their base of support on the Supreme Court will be held accountable for ethics lapses (read violations).
If passed and enacted, H.R.1 would allow Congress to create a commission to determine a “code of conduct” for justices on the Supreme Court. Despite their unchallenged power to control American society and government, justices on the High Court cannot be held accountable to any ethical standards.
Conservatives claim holding SCOTUS justices to a code of ethics “will serve as an open invitation for federal House and Senate partisans to gin up ethics complaints and phony calls demanding recusals from decisions that they believe run counter to their desired outcomes,”
They point to the Senate confirmation hearing for (grabby drunk) Brett Kavanaugh as what will be a regular occurrence if the code of ethics commission is created.
Conservatives claim they already watched “this ugly and unconstitutional scene play out in a transparently bogus impeachment campaign against Justice Brett Kavanaugh. As a co-equal branch of government, Congress cannot set standards for the actions of another co-equal branch.”
However, the Constitution authorizes Congressional oversight of the Executive Branch – a co-equal branch of government: partisan SCOTUS Justices require oversight as well according to recent history.
For example, a year-and-a-half ago Associate Justices Samuel Alito and Brett “I like beer” Kavanaugh met with the heads of the religious extremist National Organization for Marriage that filed an amicus brief with the High Court supporting employment discrimination against gay, lesbian, and transgender people because religion.. The lack of judicial ethics standards where SCOTUS justices are concerned gained little attention, but it was still impossible to believe the meeting was just to bash the LGBTQ community behind closed doors and away from prying ears.
According to Gabe Roth of Fix the Court, that meeting violated 28 U.S. Code § 455 that every federal judge in the nation is required to adhere to, and it erodes what little trust the average American might have in the High Court. Mr. Roth said:
“It’s ethical lapses like this that doom the public’s trust of the Supreme Court. How can the average American believe that the justices will render an impartial decision when at least two of the nine are meeting with individuals with a clear view on how the term’s largest cases should turn out? What were the justices thinking?”
One can assume that the two justices were thinking that they are not bound to any code of conduct or ethical standards. They are, after all, SCOTUS justices with a lifetime appointment absent any kind of ethics oversight. H.R. 1 would change that and Republicans don’t like it..
In 2010 there was a similar meeting borne of a lack of ethics attended by now-dead Antonin Scalia and still religiously-extreme Clarence Thomas. The two justices were invited to attend a regularly scheduled Koch event just prior to the High Court hearing arguments in the Citizens United case. That highly secretive confab is hosted by the Kochs and attended by all manner of wealthy conservative power brokers and uber-conservative corporate heads. Whether Thomas and Alito were directed by the Kochs, or Citizens United, on how to rule prior to hearing arguments will never be revealed because the event is a secret invitation only strategy session.
And then there is Clarence Thomas. Thomas has openly appealed for someone, anyone, or any religious group, to bring a case before the High Court so he can help the other conservatives on the High Court overturn Roe v. Wade.
Along the same lines of using religion to supersede a woman’s right to control her own body, Thomas has been very indiscreet in his crusade to go after contraception because religion.
It is unclear if, at any time in recent history, any other High Court justice has publicly appealed to special interest (religious) groups to find a means of overturning settled law the religious extremist Thomas considers egregious. But if there was a code of ethics, or a means of enforcing 28 U.S. Code § 455, Thomas would certainly be in jeopardy of losing his seat on the High Court.
In this author’s opinion, everything included in H.R. 1 is a necessity to bring some order and equality to America. However, the concept of holding Supreme Court justices, no matter their political affiliation, accountable to ethical standards, is a critical necessity and long overdue. If that code of ethics and 28 U.S. Code § 455 had been applied to the High Court’s conservatives, there would be no Citizens United decision giving corporations and the filthy rich dominance over the rest of the population and control of the government.
Considering that Supreme Court justices are appointed for life, and the incriminating evidence that at least half of the conservatives on the High Court conferred with appellates prior to hearing cases that effect the entire nation – establishing a commission to hold them to ethical standards every other federal judge must abide by, makes it crucial that H.R. 1 pass without delay.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.