Jimmy Carter official tears apart 'sham' argument against Supreme Court code of conduct
Kavanaugh faced an allegation that he assaulted a woman when they were teenagers. (AFP/File / SAUL LOEB)

Polls have been showing that the American public's faith in the U.S. Supreme Court has sunk to record lows. From the overturning of Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization to Ginni Thomas (Justice Clarence Thomas wife) encouraging Donald Trump allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, the High Court has been inundated with bad publicity.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) has co-sponsored a Democratic bill proposing a code of conduct for the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, some justices have proposed putting together a conduct code of their own. But the Washington Post has reported that the idea may not be making any headway among the justices because of opposition from Justice Clarence Thomas and possibly, Justice Samuel Alito.

Attorney Simon Lazarus, who was part of President Jimmy Carter's staff in the late 1970s and later worked in Washington, D.C. law firms, addresses the topic of U.S. Supreme Court reform in an article published by The New Republic on March 16. One argument against Congress having a conduct code, according to Lazarus, is a "separation of powers" argument. But according to Lazarus, that argument is bogus.

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"The idea of ethics reform for the High Court has penetrated the zeitgeist," Lazarus writes. "So, what are the next steps? For Congress' incipient consideration of Supreme Court ethics legislation, calling out the vacuousness of (Chief Justice John) Roberts' and his allies' constitutional defense is a crucial first step. Roberts et al. insist that preserving their unique immunity from binding ethics guardrails is necessitated by the constitutional principle of 'separation of powers.' Ethics reform legislators and advocates should have no trouble exposing this claim as a sham."

The former Jimmy Carter official continues, "Lower court federal judges, who have been covered by a mandatory code of conduct for decades, have encountered no adverse impact on their ability to render independent decisions. Finally, the long history of judicial ethics laws also undermines the current justices' contention that new restrictions could unconstitutionally invade the Court's independence. As I and others have written, statutory ethics provisions applicable to the Court were enacted as long ago as 1792, and as recently as April 2022."

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Simon Lazarus’ full article for The New Republic is available at this link.