MIL-OSI USA: Congressman Dan Goldman Introduces ‘Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act’ to Restore Accountability and Transparency to the Supreme Court

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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Dan Goldman (NY-10)

Following Revelations of Ethical Impropriety by Supreme Court Justices, ‘Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act’ Would Establish Offices of Ethics and Investigations within the Supreme Court

Supreme Court Facing Crisis of Legitimacy, Lack of Accountability for Clear Conflicts of Interest

Read the Bill Here

Photos and Video from the Announcement Here

Washington, DC – Congressman Dan Goldman (NY-10), Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (NY-12), Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Hank Johnson (GA-04), and Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) today introduced the ‘Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act.’ This bill would establish dedicated investigative body within the Supreme Court that would provide transparency and accountability through exhaustive investigations into alleged ethical improprieties and reports to Congress on its findings. The ‘Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act’ would also establish an ethics counsel charged with providing advice to justices on ethical issues, including disclosure requirements and recusal.

Following recent reporting of ethical lapses from Supreme Court Justices, public trust in the Court has eroded. Most recently, it was reported that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito had – on two separate occasions – displayed political symbols at his properties. One of the symbols – an upside-down American flag – is closely associated with the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement, and its display poses a clear conflict of interest, yet Justice Alito has refused to recuse from cases related to the January 6 attacks on the Capitol or the 2020 election following Goldman and Johnson’s letter urging him to do so.

“Our nation’s highest court is facing an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy because there is no enforceable code of ethics and no accountability to the fundamental norms required of all other judges,” Congressman Dan Goldman said. “It is imperative – for the health of our democracy – that we restore faith in the Supreme Court immediately. The ‘Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act’ is a sorely needed first step to hold Supreme Court Justices accountable and ensure the highest court does not have the lowest ethical standards.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler said, “We expect the justices of the Supreme Court to adhere to the highest standards of ethical conduct, but their conduct too often falls short. With the Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act, we can ensure that justices are accountable for their actions and help rebuild the crumbling respect for our nation’s highest Court.”

Congressman Hank Johnson said, “It is clear that we are at a crisis point for the Supreme Court, our country and our democracy. It’s a five-alarm fire, an all-hands-on-deck moment. We need court reform now. That’s why I’m pleased to co-lead the Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act, which will advise justices on ethical matters, provide ethics training, create the Office of Investigative Counsel within the Court to probe potential instances of ethical impropriety by justices and report to back to Congress.”

Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill said, “Our Supreme Court Justices take the same oath that I took when I first entered the Naval Academy at age 18: to bear true faith and allegiance to our Constitution. But it’s become clear that certain members of the court have abandoned that oath to serve not our country and Constitution – but their own personal, political interests. After flagrant ethics violations from Justices Thomas and Alito, it’s time for Congress to bring accountability and oversight to the bench. That’s why I’m proud to help introduce The Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act to establish real ethics counsel and oversight for Justices and restore public trust in our nation’s highest court.”

Gabe Roth, Executive Director at Fix the Court said, “Ethics policies at the Supreme Court should be robust and consistent, and the current hodgepodge — where some justices confronting ethical questions query their colleagues or law professors or the Office of Legal Counsel or no one — is far from a best practice. That’s why a new position of Ethics Counsel is critical, and I applaud Rep. Goldman’s vision here — helping the justices help themselves. And when the justices err, as all humans, even Supreme Court justices do, having the additional backstop of a complaints process in the bill is another critical step toward building a more accountable Court.”

Debra Perlin, Policy Director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said, “The public should be able to trust that the Supreme Court will act to hold itself to the highest ethical standards and always follow the law. The plethora of recent ethics scandals, including the display of two flags associated with the January 6th insurrection by Justice Alito, shows that we cannot take this assumption for granted. We applaud Representative Goldman’s introduction of the Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act, which aims to overcome the deficiencies in the Supreme Court’s recently adopted Code of Conduct by authorizing the Supreme Court to create an Office of Ethics Counsel to provide the justices with ethical advice as well as a separate Office of Investigative Counsel to conduct independent investigations if and when potential ethical violations do occur. The American people deserve a judiciary free of ethical conflicts. This legislation brings us closer towards accomplishing that by giving Supreme Court justices the ethical compliance tools they need and that other branches of government already have in place.”

Caroline Ciccone, President of Accountable.US said, “There is an existential corruption crisis at the Supreme Court. With brazen new ethics violations surfacing by the day, the Court’s corruption crisis has undermined its credibility and caused public trust to hit record lows. Thanks to the strong leadership of Rep. Goldman and co-leads Reps. Johnson, Sherrill, and Nadler, and their many cosponsors, the Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act is a critical step toward restoring integrity to our high court — ultimately ensuring our Court serves everyday Americans, not justices’ wealthy pals and special interests.”

Tiffany Muller, President of End Citizens United // Let America Vote said, “Our Supreme Court should be the gold standard for our judicial system, not the corrupt mess it currently is. It’s past time for change. We must reform and fix the court now. And we have answer on how to do that. Congressman Goldman’s legislation is a necessary step to begin to rebuild Americans’ confidence in the Supreme Court.”

Joe Van Wye, Senior Legislative Strategist at P Street said, “The Supreme Court is increasingly corrupted and faces a legitimacy crisis. Whether you look at Justice Thomas’ extensive conflicts of interest, Justice Alito’s clear allegiance to a criminal insurrectionist movement, or their refusal to recuse themselves in conflicted cases, it’s no wonder the Court has lost the faith of the American people. We commend Rep. Goldman and Ranking Member Johnson for introducing this legislation that takes an important step toward establishing real, meaningful ethical guardrails, and look forward to working with them to finally bring accountability and trust back to the Supreme Court.”

Alex Aronson, Executive Director of Court Accountability said, “The Supreme Court has been an ethical no man’s land for years, as the justices have consistently rebuffed calls to abide by an enforceable code of conduct, even as public trust in their institution has crumbled amid historic corruption scandals. The Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act shows that Congress can act to protect the people from the threat of this captured court. It is an important step to bringing much-needed accountability to a court that thinks it is answerable to no one, and we applaud Mr. Goldman and his House colleagues for their leadership.”

The ‘Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act’:

  1. Establishes an Office of Ethics Counsel within the Court to advise justices on ethical matters

    1. Provides ethics training and advice to justices and their spouses through dedicated ethics counsels

  2. Establishes an Office of Investigative Counsel within the Court to probe potential instances of ethical impropriety by justices and report to Congress on compliance

    1. Provides Congress the ability to submit ethics complaints to the Office of Investigative Counsel and delivers reports on those complaints in a timely manner

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Justice Thomas failed to disclose gifts and travel from political activist Harlan Crow with at least one trip valued at over $500,000. Reports have also revealed that Crow bought properties from Justice Thomas and his relatives for at least double what Justice Thomas had said those properties were worth. Justice Thomas’ family received up to $750,000 in income yearly from a firm that has not existed since 2006.

In September, Congressman Goldman led 49 fellow members of Congress in sending a letter to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas demanding Justice Thomas recuse himself from Loper Bright v. Raimondo, and any other case challenging the Chevron deference doctrine, following ProPublica’s investigative reporting that revealed Justice Thomas’ secret participation in donor events organized by the Koch Network.

In December, the Congressman called on Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from ruling on United States of America v. Donald J. Trump, in which former President Donald Trump is charged with conspiring to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election, conspiring to obstruct the certification of the electoral vote, and actually obstructing the certification of the electoral vote. Public reporting had revealed that Ginni Thomas, Justice Thomas’ wife, played a pivotal role in urging multiple states to overturn their results in the 2020 election.

Additionally, it was reported that Justice Alito accepted extravagant gifts from major conservative donors including Paul Singer, a hedge fund billionaire who has repeatedly asked the Court to rule on his business dealings. The allegations that Justice Alito accepted a paid-for vacation that totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars from Leonard Leo, who had recently played a significant role in Justice Alito’s confirmation process, further serve to undermine the legitimacy of the court.

Cosponsors of the ‘Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act’ include Representatives Schiff (CA-28), Ivey (MD-04), Garcia (TX-29), Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Cohen (TN-09), Norton (DC-AL), McCollum (MN-04), Ramirez (IL-03), Landsman (OH-01), Blumenauer (OR-03), Tonko (NY-20), Schakowsky (IL-09), Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Connolly (VA-11), Grijalva (AZ-07), Jackson Lee (TX-18), Quigley (IL-05), Brownley (CA-26), Gottheimer (NJ-05), and Bonamici (OR-01).

The ‘Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act’ is endorsed by Fix the Court, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Accountable.US, End Citizens United//LetAmerica Vote, P Street, the Project on Government Oversight, and Court Accountability.

Congressman Dan Goldman has repeatedly called on Chief Justice John Roberts to establish an ethics counsel within Supreme Court to standardize ethics procedures, advise justices on ethical issues, and prevent ethical misjudgements.

Goldman is also a cosponsor of the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act and the Judicial Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act to formally establish a code of conduct for Supreme Court Justices.

Congressman Goldman is a founding member of the Court Reform Now Task Force.