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Durbin Responds to Supreme Court's New Code of Conduct in Speech on Senate Floor

WASHINGTON – Following a years-long effort by U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to deliver on Supreme Court ethics reform, the Supreme Court announced today a first-ever code of conduct for all Supreme Court Justices.

Durbin responded to the announcement in a speech on the Senate floor. Key quotes here:

“After years of refusing to act, a series of scandalous disclosures involving several justices on the Court, and the Senate Judiciary Committee passing legislation sponsored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on ethical reform, the Supreme Court has finally responded. Today, for the first time in history, the Supreme Court of the United States is at least saying to the American people: ‘we hear you.’”

“At a glance, this code of conduct for the justices of the Supreme Court is similar to the standards that apply to all other lower-court federal judges. The Court’s code of conduct sets forth several important canons of conduct, including canons on upholding integrity and independence of the judiciary and avoiding impropriety and the appearance of impropriety. All of these are important steps, but they fall short of what we could and should expect when a Supreme Court issues a code of conduct.”

“The Court’s statement on the code, specifically notes, ‘for the most part, these rules are not new.’ That’s a problem, because the Court’s previous practices were plainly inadequate. The Court’s new code of conduct does not appear to contain any meaningful enforcement mechanism to hold justices accountable for any violations of the code. It also leaves a wide range of decisions up to the discretion for individual justices, including decisions on recusal from sitting on cases.”

“I’m still reviewing the Court’s new code of conduct. For now, I will note that the Court’s adoption of this code marks a step in the right direction. It may fall short of the ethical standards which other federal judges are held to, and that’s unacceptable. And if it falls short, the American people will ultimately have the last word, and the integrity of the Court is at issue.”

“We are going to carefully review this proposed code of conduct to evaluate whether it complies with our goal that the highest court in the land not languish with the lowest standard of ethics in our federal government. But this release today, long overdue, begins a dialogue which can end with restoring the integrity of the Court.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

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.

For full background on Chair Durbin’s and the Senate Judiciary Committee’s efforts to deliver Supreme Court ethics reform for the American people, visit this page that includes a timeline, releases, correspondence, and information on the SCERT Act.