ABA Calls on US Supreme Court to Adopt Judicial Ethics Code

The American Bar Association (ABA) wants the US Supreme Court to adopt a judicial ethics code. The House of Delegates at the 2023 ABA Midyear Meeting in New Orleans on Monday voted to call on the court to adopt a code of judicial ethics akin to the code of conduct the Judicial Conference of the United States adopted for other federal judges. The measure also calls on other bar associations across the nation to pass their own resolutions urging the court to adopt a code of ethics binding on the justices.

The absence of a clearly articulated, binding code of ethics for the justices of the court imperils the legitimacy of the court, according to a statement by Washington state’s King County Bar Association, which submitted the resolution to the House of Delegates. The resolution said the absence of such a code threatens the legitimacy of the court and all American courts and the American judicial system, given the court’s central role enshrined in our federal republic.

Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., along with Congress.[0], set to re-introduce legislation on Thursday that would require the justices to adopt a code, has repeatedly come under pressure to subject the Supreme Court to a mandatory code of conduct.[1] [0] The bill, like previous versions, would task the Judicial Conference of the United States with issuing within a year of enactment a code of conduct applying to Supreme Court justices. A new provision in the code would allow for the appointment of an ethics investigations lawyer who would be responsible for enforcing it.[0]

Chief Justice John Roberts addressed the court's inaction on the issue in his 2011 end-of-year report on the judiciary, saying it was a “misconception” that the Supreme Court has more lax ethical standards than lower courts.[2] [2]

In recent months, the Supreme Court has seen its public standing suffer due to a number of ethical issues it has faced.[3] [3] Justice Samuel Alito expressed worries in response to a letter sent to the court by a former anti-abortion rights activist, which mentioned the court's 2014 ruling in Burwell v.[3]

0. “Supreme Court justices face new pressure to adopt code of conduct” NBC News, 8 Feb. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/supreme-court-justices-face-new-pressure-adopt-code-conduct-rcna68995

1. “A new Supreme Court spousal controversy is bringing back up a bad solution” msnNOW, 6 Feb. 2023, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/a-new-supreme-court-spousal-controversy-is-bringing-back-up-a-bad-solution/ar-AA179Lob?li=BBnb7Kz

2. “American Bar Association Urges Ethics Code for US Supreme Court” Bloomberg Law, 7 Feb. 2023, https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/american-bar-association-urges-ethics-code-for-us-supreme-court

3. “Supreme Court Justices Reportedly Can’t Figure Out How To Adopt Ethics Code Amid Controversies” Forbes, 9 Feb. 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2023/02/09/supreme-court-justices-reportedly-cant-figure-out-how-to-adopt-ethics-code-amid-controversies