Durbin: “Justice Kagan’s response to the Supreme Court’s ethics crisis provides a sharp contrast to the ‘back off’ warning we heard from Justice Alito in the Wall Street Journal”
CHICAGO – Today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement on Justice Elena Kagan’s public comments on Supreme Court ethics reform at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in Portland, Oregon:
“Justice Kagan’s response to the Supreme Court’s ethics crisis provides a sharp contrast to the ‘back off’ warning we heard from Justice Alito in the Wall Street Journal. Justice Kagan rightly acknowledged that the Supreme Court is ‘not imperial’ and, like the other two branches of the federal government, is subject to checks and balances. Unlike Justice Alito, she wisely refrained from commenting on a matter that the Court may be called on to address.
“Clearly, the Justices are considering ethics reform internally, as I believe they should. The Chief Justice can start to rescue the reputation of the Court by addressing the issues raised in legislation that the Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved. The disturbing disclosure of lavish unreported gifts and questionable conflicts makes it clear that repairing the integrity of our highest Court requires timely, meaningful reform. If the Court will not act, Congress must.”
Justice Kagan’s comments follow Justice Samuel Alito’s public criticism of Supreme Court ethics reform legislation in a recent Wall Street Journal interview, which Durbin called “unwise and unwelcome.” Following Alito’s comments and revelations that one of the interviewers has business before the Court, Senate Judiciary Democrats urged Chief Justice Roberts to address Alito’s interview violating the Court’s Statement on Ethics for appearance of impropriety, including a recusal by Alito in Moore v. U.S.
The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act to the full Senate on July 20. The bill would require the Supreme Court Justices to adopt a code of conduct, create a mechanism to investigate alleged violations of the code of conduct and other laws, improve disclosure and transparency when a Justice has a connection to a party or amicus before the Court, and require Justices to explain their recusal decisions to the public.
Durbin has been calling on the Supreme Court to adopt an enforceable code of conduct for more than a decade.He first sent a letter to the Chief Justice on this issue more than 11 years ago.