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Durbin Statement on End of Supreme Court Term & Upcoming Vote on Ethics Reform Legislation

Durbin and Senator Whitehouse previously announced markup of Supreme Court ethics reform legislation in the upcoming work period

BLOOMINGTON  U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today released the following statement regarding the end of the Supreme Court term and his commitment to advance ethics reform legislation in the upcoming work period:

“‘God save the United States and this Honorable Court!’  These are the words spoken by the Marshal when she gavels the Supreme Court into session.  But many questions remain at the end of the Court’s latest term regarding its reputation, credibility, and ‘honorable’ status.  I’m sorry to see Chief Justice Roberts end the term without taking action on the ethical issues plaguing the Court—all while the Court handed down decisions that dismantled longstanding precedents and the progress our country has made over generations.

“The highest court in the land should not have the lowest ethical standards.  That’s why, as I previously announced, the Senate Judiciary Committee will mark up Supreme Court ethics reform legislation when the Senate returns after the July 4th recess.  An announcement on the timing of this vote will be made early next week.

“Since the Chief Justice has refused to act, the Judiciary Committee must.”

In May, the Judiciary Committee held a full committee hearing entitled, “Supreme Court Ethics Reform.”  The hearing emphasized the clear need for reform and examined common sense proposals to hold Justices to – at a minimum – the same ethical standards as every other federal judge or high-ranking official in the federal government.  Durbin’s opening statement from the hearing is available here and his questions for the witnesses are available here.

Additionally, the Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action, and Federal Rights held a hearing entitled “Review of Federal Judicial Ethics Processes at the Judicial Conference of the United States,” featuring the testimony of the Honorable Mark L. Wolf, Senior U.S. District Judge for the District of Massachusetts.  Durbin’s opening statement from the hearing is available here.  The Subcommittee also held a hearing entitled, “Ensuring an Impartial Judiciary: Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act of 2023.”  Durbin’s opening statement from the hearing is available here.

Durbin invited Chief Justice John Roberts, or another Justice whom the Chief Justice designated, to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the May 2nd hearing.  The Chief Justice declined to appear.  In his letter declining Durbin’s invitation, the Chief Justice attached a “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices” that raised more questions than it answered.

On April 10th, Durbin and his Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic colleagues sent a letter to the Chief Justice urging him to take swift action to address reported conduct by Justices that is inconsistent with the ethical standards the American people expect of public servants.  Durbin received a response letter from the Secretary of the Judicial Conference of the United States and it stated that the Senators’ April 10th letter was referred to the Judicial Conference and forwarded to the Judicial Conference Committee on Financial Disclosure.

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 11 years ago.

Congress has an appropriate and well-established role in oversight of the judiciary and updating ethics laws that apply to federal officials, including justices and judges.  Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act, which the justices are subject to, and created through statute the Judicial Conference, which administers that law.