The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jeff Hauser,

New SCOTUS "Ethics Code" Is a Toothless PR Stunt

In response to the Supreme Court’s announcement of a new ethics code of conduct, Revolving Door ProjectExecutive Director Jeff Hauser issued the following statement:

“Today’s so-called Supreme Court `Code of Conduct’ comes with no enforcement mechanism. This unenforceable public relations document serves absolutely no purpose other than to permit the media to revert to pretending that our unaccountable and unethical Supreme Court retains legitimacy.

Beyond not being enforceable, this document reeks of a cover-up for, among others, Justice Clarence Thomas. The list of weak ethics-adjacent aphorims is prefaced by a statement from the Justices that they have `largely; been complying with the loose norms they set forth today.

Yet Thomas’ conduct, in particular, has long been at odds with any pretense to any remotely serious standard of ethics. Consider the code’s imperative that a Justice not `knowingly lend the prestige of the judicial office to advance the private interests of the Justice.’

According to the New York Times, `[e]very spring, amid several days of festivities […] Justice Thomas […] hosts a ceremony at the Supreme Court. In the courtroom, he conducts the [Horatio Alger Association’s] foundational rite, the induction of roughly 10 new members. Toward the end of the ceremony, scholarship recipients make a brief appearance, walking in procession through the courtroom.’

The Alger Association’s members, as we have previously written, include top banking executives and wealthy business elites who would stand to gain from Thomas ruling to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in a current SCOTUS case. In fact, as we have noted repeatedly, Justice Thomas has close personal ties to many nefarious industry actors who would directly benefit from a crippled CFPB – ranging from David Koch to Harlan Crow.

Today’s Code of Conduct represents a big test for the nation’s media and legal elites. Will a risible PR stunt succeed in relieving pressure off a Supreme Court that is rightly widely deemed to be in crisis? People who care about the rule of law must hope those who lead our national coverage about the Supreme Court are not readily co-opted by lawyering that, truth be told, is not even especially slick or sophisticated.”

The Revolving Door Project (RDP) scrutinizes executive branch appointees to ensure they use their office to serve the broad public interest, rather than to entrench corporate power or seek personal advancement.