Supreme Court Can’t Agree On An Ethics Code

( – The Supreme Court is the only court in the United States that operates without a code of ethics, according to The Nation. While Justice Elena Kagan told Congress in 2019 that a code was currently being deliberated, nothing has materialized four years later, prompting one analyst writing for the outlet to point to the failures of a self-governing institution. 

The failure is in many ways indicative of the High Court even trying to write its own ethics, according to the author. As Elie Mystal writes, criminals do not get to write their own racketeering laws, so why should the highest court in the land? What would be the reason to allow the nine sitting justices the authority to ethically govern themselves when they have veto power over other branches of government? 

Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor and Bloomberg columnist, argues that other branches cannot dictate a code of ethics to the Supreme Court. But even if Congress could write an ethics code for the court, he says that would not help because that would impose the risk of influence. “Formal authority” would be placed on Congress to oversee the Supreme Court which goes against the court’s independence from the other branches and, consequently, it can be lobbied for political bias. 

He suggests that only the court is in a position to craft such a document to keep itself unaffected by those external influences. However, Mystal tries to deconstruct that argument by accusing the Supreme Court of squealing like a pig when Congress tries to regulate it. 

But because the Constitution vested the Supreme Court with its powers, unlike lower courts, Congress has no authority to impose regulation on it as it does with those lower courts. The most Congress can do is try to impeach any of the nine justices, but this does not include sanctioning them for what they see as inappropriate behavior. 

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