The U.S. Supreme Court is 234 years of age and only until this week it has operated without a single standard for the way its justices should conduct themselves.
The court finally has adopted a sort of guideline for the things its justices can do, but it falls far short of anything worth a damn or any measure that could help restore public confidence in our nation’s highest court.
Two justices have been in the news of late. Clarence Thomas — the court’s senior member in terms of service — has received lavish gifts from a Dallas billionaire while also ruling on cases involving the Harlan Crow’s business interests. The gifts include vacations for Thomas and his wife, tuition paid for his grandson, and a mortgage paid for a home occupied by Thomas’s mother.
Samuel Alito took a fishing trip at the expense of a hedge fund manager and then failed to recuse himself in a case involving the fund.
Oh, we also have the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg taking a trip to Israel paid for by someone with a case pending before the court.
This is utter nonsense. It’s pure crap. It compromises the court’s integrity, its fairness, its objectivity, its ability to rule on the merits of a case exclusively without being influenced by outside pressure.
I have been yammering all along that Clarence Thomas should resign from the court, but that call involves the numerous instances of conflict of interest that seem to fly over the justice’s head; the others involve his wife’s involvement in the Big Lie and the assault by MAGA morons on 1/6 seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The very first rule of ethics should be for justices to avoid any possible conflict of interest by being involved in any fashion with litigants appearing before them. The Supreme Court has stated it now in writing.
What’s missing, though, is any meaningful enforcement of the rules. The court has laid out nothing that prescribes a punishment for justices who are caught violating these rules.
That absolutely must be the next step.