The irony is so rich you can slice and dice it, given the U.S. Supreme Court’s insistence that lower courts abide by strict ethics rules … but operates on its own without any such restriction.
We have three justices on the nation’s highest court who now have some serious — and possibly egregious — ethics troubles hanging over them.
They start with the chief justice, John Roberts and include Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch. The Senate Judiciary Committee had invited Chief Justice Roberts to visit with the panel about those questions, but Roberts declined, citing judicial independence.
Roberts’s wife is a headhunter for law firms, earning millions of dollars annually. The firms for which she works routinely have business before her husband’s court. Conflict of interest? Looks like it to me.
Justice Gorsuch sold some property to a lawyer with another mega firm, which also does business with the court. More conflict? Umm, yep!
Justice Thomas has demonstrated a nearly legendary lapse of judgment. His wife is part of the Big Lie crowd, believing the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump; a Texas gazillionaire has lavished gifts on the Thomases and the justice has failed to report them; the rich Texan also has purchased the justice’s mother’s home and allows her to live there rent free. What do you think about that? Yeah … conflict of interest.
But the court has no rules governing this conduct. There are no restrictions or reporting requirements demanded of the men and women who serve on the court.
These men all have one thing else in common: they are Republican-nominated justices.
Why mention the partisan label? Well, consider something else. Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, was a partner in an international law firm. By the time VP Harris was sworn into office, Emhoff quit his job, surrendering millions of dollars in income. Why? Because there might be a hint of conflict. He chose the right path and is now teaching law at Georgetown University, earning a handsome salary, but which is significantly less than he would have earned had he stayed employed by the mega firm.
No one can fire any of the justices, or the vice president. The only way to remove them from office is to impeach them and then convict them in a congressional trial. The three men mentioned here have ignored any pretense of ethical conduct; the vice president and her husband have chosen a more correct option.
There must be an accounting for the individuals who serve on the nation’s highest court. For the chief justice to resist any calls for ethics reform is to betray the high office he occupies.