December 5, 2023

Expensive Gifts: US Supreme Court Takes on Rules of Conduct

Ethical debate

Expensive Gifts: US Supreme Court Takes on Rules of Conduct

After a real estate mogul’s gift to a Supreme Court justice sparked an ethics debate, America’s most powerful court adopted rules for the first time.

For the first time in US history, Supreme Court justices have upheld the probity rule. This emerged from the Supreme Court’s statement on Monday afternoon (local time). Among other things, the document describes how they must recuse themselves from a case – for example “personal bias” or “financial interest”.

Now judges have a norm.

Image: Keystone

It is unclear who is responsible for enforcing the code of conduct and what the penalties are for non-compliance. In the document, the chief justices agree that this may require additional evidence. It should now be checked.

Reports of expensive gifts from Texas real estate tycoon Harlan Crowe to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had previously sparked an ethics debate — focused not only on Thomas, but also on his colleagues. While U.S. federal judges are already subject to a code of conduct, there were no corresponding rules for America’s most powerful court until Monday’s announcement. “For the most part, these rules and principles are not new,” the document said in its introduction. However, the lack of a uniform demarcation line has led to a “misunderstanding” that Chief Justices, unlike other lawyers in the country, do not feel bound by any ethical rules.

According to a report by the investigative publication ProPublica, Crowe, a major conservative donor, donated, among other things, a 2019 trip to Indonesia for Thomas, which the ultraconservative judge and his wife Ginny spent on Crow’s yacht. They also traveled on his private jet. The 75-year-old judge later submitted a statement saying he was advised not to take scheduled flights for security reasons. The background is his negative attitude towards abortion rights and the violent left’s reaction to it.

On the Supreme Court, where nine justices are appointed for life and make groundbreaking rulings on social politics, Thomas generally represents staunchly conservative positions. (dpa)

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