Key Senate Democrats have asked for next year’s funding for the Supreme Court to be conditional on the creation of an ethics code for justices.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, who leads the appropriations subcommittee when he was writing the annual funding bill for the judiciary, expressed support for the idea, but they need final approval to complete it. GOP lawyers and the top Republican on the subcommittee expressed opposition to the proposal.
Van Hollen is among 15 other members of the Democratic caucus — including Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee that threatens the federal bench – proposed language to be added to next year’s funding bill that would require the Supreme Court to have a transparent process for recusals and access to ethics allegations against investigators. justices
They did so in a new letter, CNN, Van Hollen and Tennessee Sen. Bill Hagerty, who is the top Republican on the appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the judiciary.
“It is unacceptable that the Supreme Court has exempted itself from policies that apply to all other members of the federal courts, and I believe Congress should address this issue,” Van Hollen said in a statement shared with CNN on Monday. His first comments reported by The Washington Post.
The Democrats’ interest in lifting Congressional appropriations for court funding is the latest volley in the debate over whether a stronger code of conduct is needed at the Supreme Court, which does not seem to have many ethics procedures imposed on lower courts by judges.
Van Hollen noted that the ethics code requirement in the annual appropriations bill requires bipartisan support given Congress’s current constitution, but said he does not “see any reason why the Supreme Court should establish a code of ethics. It’s a partisan issue.”
A spokesman for Hagerty said the ethics code is “a matter of policy that is separate from the foundation level for the operations and security of the Supreme Court.”
“Furthermore, Senator Hagerty strongly believes that protecting the independence of the judicial branch from political interference is aimed at changing the court’s rules or procedures,” the spokesman said in a statement Monday evening. “Threats to maintain personal security between justices and their families in exchange for favorable policies are nothing more than judicial proposals or protests outside the Houses of Justice.”
Some Republicans in the House have signaled an openness in the past to pushing for an ethical brand for justices, but conservative GOP congressional leaders have defended the justices in the face of claims they are troubled by ethical standards.
New letters from Democrats have revealed recent reports that have raised questions about conflicts of interest issues with the political activities of Justice Clarence Thomas’ spouses and an alleged well-financed and secretive campaign to seek the court’s top conservatives. .
“The Supreme Court has the tools and authority it needs to develop and implement these changes, including adopting a code of conduct that creates better and more transparent recusal rules and procedures — from lengthy ones in lower courts — to receive and do. judicial crime complaints,” he said in the letter. “One obstacle keeping the Court from adopting these reforms is that the Court itself has refused to see them through.”
They argued that the annual funding bill should withhold $10 million from the Supreme Court’s funding unless the justices adopt a code of ethics. The Supreme Court is requesting approximately $151 million in appropriations coming through 2024.
The language of ethics proposes new letters for the annual appropriations of the legislation to make more concrete standards so that with justice he or she excludes him or herself from the case, as well as a system of “receiving and investigating complaints imposing violations of this public Code of Ethics. or other wrongdoing by the justices of the Curia.
In this state, the justices decide for themselves whether to recuse themselves from the case. It is unclear what criteria, if any, the Supreme Court uses to review ethics allegations brought against justices.
In the past, Chief Justice John Roberts has written that justices have taken steps to maintain transparency and public trust.
“I have complete faith in the ability of my colleagues to carry out the objection.” he wrote in the 2011 year-end report. Its 2011 report He emphasized the need for the judicial branch to have “institutional independence,” implying that the federal seat could be entrusted to the capital itself without interference from Congress.
With the new Democrats’ letter to the appropriators, the Fathers against “Convention has broad authority to compel the Supreme Court to institute these reforms, which would join other needs already legislatively mandated.”
“And Congress’s appropriations power is one tool to achieve these changes,” the Democrat said, citing D.C. Circuit cases in which judges — including congressional Republicans — have asserted that Congress can use the purse strings to pressure the executive branch into making certain decisions. changes.
The Supreme Court’s press office did not immediately respond to CNN’s inquiry about the funding bill.
This story has been updated with additional information.