Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Supreme Court adopting an ethical code of Conduct for its Justices, and its shortcomings. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Yesterday, for the first time, the United States Supreme Court announced the adoption of an ethical Code of Conduct for Justices.
At a time when Americans’ trust in the high court is deeply, deeply shaken, the Supreme Court has taken an important first step to lay down basic rules of the road for our Justices. Frankly, this should have happened a long time ago: lower courts have long been required to embrace an ethical code of conduct, and there’s no reason for the Supreme Court not to have done the same.
Now, while the Supreme Court’s announcement was important, its lack of enforceability is a glaring omission. Justices, it seems, are left to their own devices in applying this code to themselves. Frankly, Americans could be excused if they’re skeptical after everything they’ve read in the paper about Justices accepting lavish gifts and vacationing with ultra-rich ideologues – some of whom bring cases before the Court. Sheldon Whitehouse said it well, he said: it's as if they're agreeing to the rules of baseball, but no umpires.
So, while the Justices’ Code of Conduct is a necessary and important step, it cannot be the final word. The public’s trust in our courts is a key feature of our democratic society, and there’s a lot of work left to do before that trust is fully restored. Congress must continue its efforts to hold the judiciary accountable.