13 November 2023

Window Dressing

Dragged kicking and screaming into rearranging the ethical deck chairs on the Titanic, the Supreme Court has adapted a thoroughly toothless and meaningless code of conduct for the first time ever.

This shows us a few things:

  • The Supreme Court is truly terrified at the prospect of meaningful oversight of the behavior of the justices.
  • This is theater in attempt to forestall meaningful change.
  • A majority of the justices believe that Congress will impose a mandate involving real change if they don't find a way to short circuit real reform.

Color me cynical:

The Supreme Court issued its first-ever code of conduct on Monday following reports of undisclosed trips and other favors that sparked criticism and put pressure on the justices to adopt a set of ethical rules.

The 15-page document said it largely compiled practices the justices informally followed. But the lack of a formal document “has led in recent years to the misunderstanding that the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules,” it says. “To dispel this misunderstanding, we are issuing this Code, which largely represents a codification of principles that we have long regarded as governing our conduct.”

The code says justices can seek guidance from colleagues, judicial decisions, lower court judges, the Supreme Court’s in-house legal counsel, “and from scholars, scholarly treatises, and articles.” It creates no single ethics office or adviser and doesn’t provide penalties for violation of ethical standards.

All nine current justices signed the document, which suggests that it may not be binding on future appointees unless they affirmatively accept the code.
It's toothless, and it will not bind any future justices.  That is a feature, not a bug. 
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), a leading critic of the justices’ conduct and the court’s conservative direction, said there was more work to do.

“This is a long-overdue step by the justices, but a code of ethics is not binding unless there is a mechanism to investigate possible violations and enforce the rules. The honor system has not worked for members of the Roberts Court,” he said.
Indeed Senator Whitehouse.
Reports by ProPublica and other news organizations this year detailed previously undisclosed vacations and other favors wealthy benefactors have provided Justice Clarence Thomas, along with potentially questionable conduct by several other justices. That led some lawmakers who have long called for the court to adopt an ethical code to renew their scrutiny of the court. The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Democrats, passed legislation that would tighten standards for the Supreme Court.
And the justices are afraid of this, because, notwithstanding the protestations of Alito and Thomas that the justices reign exist in a world with no checks and balances, at least 2 of the right-wing justices understand what it would mean for Congress to create an independent oversight process and they were to rule this unconstitutional.

Last week, Judiciary Committee Republicans scuttled at least temporarily an effort by Democrats to subpoena two of the wealthy figures identified in the news reports, Dallas real estate tycoon Harlan Crow and Leonard Leo, who controls a network of conservative organizations pushing for a more conservative judiciary.

Of course they did, because they know that some of the Republican justices are corrupt as f%$#.

F%$# the court.  Pass a law that creates hard and fast rules, and appoint an Inspector who has the right to subpoena records, including tax returns, who is mandated to report any irregularities to Congress.


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