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‘US Supreme Court needs ethics code’
Deborah Enix-Ross (R) with Law Society past-president Michelle Ní Longáin

11 May 2023 / rule of law Print

‘US Supreme Court needs ethics code’

An organisation that represents US lawyers has called on the country’s Supreme Court judges to adopt a binding code of judicial ethics.

The statement, from the ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross, comes amid allegations that Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas received undeclared gifts from billionaire Harlan Crow.

Democrats on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary have written to Crow, a donor to the Republican Party, asking for details of any gifts to the judge.

Similar letters were sent to the holding companies that own Crow’s private jet and private yacht.

Integrity and impartiality

The ABA President said that, while an independent judiciary was the cornerstone of the rule of law, public support for that independence relied on public confidence in the legitimacy of the courts.

“People must believe judges act ethically according to standards firmly grounded in integrity and impartiality,” she stated.

Enix-Ross said that the absence of a clearly articulated, binding code of ethics for the justices of the Supreme Court “imperils public confidence in our courts, which in turn undermines the legitimacy of the American judicial system”.

She pointed out that, while other federally appointed judges were bound to a code of ethics that included enforcement mechanisms, justices of the Supreme Court were not.

“As our democratic institutions and the rule of law are under attack, we need our courts to be trusted. The Supreme Court must act and develop its own binding code of conduct,” the ABA President concluded.

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