Democrats Introduce Supreme Court Ethics Bill
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Under current law, the Supreme Court is exempt from certain ethics rules that govern judges on lower courts, including rules regarding recusal.  Recently the court has come under increased scrutiny, particularly Justice Clarence Thomas due to his wife’s work with conservative advocacy groups and his attendance at an event hosted by Charles Koch, an energy executive and major conservative donor. 

Under legislation introduced today by Democrats Chris Murphy and Anthony Weiner, Supreme Court Justices would be required to explain their reasons for recusing or not recusing from a particular case, and if a Justice turns down a motion to disqualify it would permit the remaining justices to remove them from the case.

The legislation follows on the heels of a letter signed by more than 100 law professors and legal ethicists urging reform of the recusal process.  Although the consensus of most ethecists is that some kind of reform is needed, Stephen Gillers, a highly respected legal ethicist at New York University School of Law, broke ranks over the recusal issue.  According to Gillers, allowing justices to remove each other could spoil the Court’s collegiality and lead to the perception that a politicized Court is trying to affect the outcome of cases by removing justices that disagree on a particular issue.



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