Today, U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) held a press conference in Burlington calling for a stronger code of ethics of U.S. Supreme Court Justices. Senator Welch, a member of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, was joined by Marilyn Skoglund, retired Associate Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court, and Andrew Manitsky, President of the Vermont Bar Association and legal ethics expert.
“There are almost a thousand federal judges across the U.S., including judges here in Vermont, who adhere to a strict ethical code of conduct. There’s no reason that the nine Justices on our Supreme Court shouldn’t be held to the same standards,” said Sen. Welch. “The Supreme Court’s integrity, and the public’s trust in that integrity, matters; without it our Democracy is weakened. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I’m calling on the Court to clean up its house and institute a stronger code of ethics—if they don’, Congress will be forced to act.”
As a member of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Welch has been a leading voice in the push for transparency and ethics reform within the U.S. Supreme Court, raising his concerns in the national media and in congressional hearings. Despite multiple requests for information from the Supreme Court and hearings in the Judiciary Committee, the Court has, to date, failed to outline meaningful steps it will take to establish robust ethical standards and processes.
In early April ProPublica reported its first story outlining potential ethical misconduct by Justice Clarence Thomas, who allegedly accepted gifts and privately-funded travel from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow. Additional stories followed, including reporting uncovering undisclosed real estate deals, and tuition payments for relatives. ProPublica and other publications have also recently published stories on property deals involving Justice Neil Gorsuch, and undisclosed payments made from a political-advocacy group to Justice Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas.
Public approval of the U.S. Supreme Court is at its lowest in decades, with nearly 60% of Americans disapproving of the way the Supreme Court is handling its job.
Photos from the press conference can be found on the Senator’s website.