WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Criticism of the Supreme Court is mounting after accusations that some justices have acted unethically. On Tuesday, a Senate committee held a hearing to discuss possible ethics reform for the high court.
Senator Chris Murphy is among those who are pushing to pass legislation to institute new ethics rules. “You got to stand up and call wrong when you see it,” Murphy said. “This court is poisoning their legitimacy.”
Recent reporting by ProPublica revealed Justice Clarence Thomas took undisclosed luxury trips paid for by a conservative billionaire. Shortly after that, Politico found that Justice Neil Gorsuch didn’t disclose that the head of an influential law firm brought property for him just after he joined the high court.
“The Supreme Court lacks a clear, enforceable, binding code of ethics,” Senator Alex Padilla pointed out.
Democratic lawmakers say new ethical code laws could include financial disclosure requirements and standards for recusals.
Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin says he’s been advocating for reforms for years now.
“It is critical to our democracy that the American people have confidence that judges can not be bought or influenced,” Durbin said.
But the committee hearing to discuss potential reforms quickly turned into a partisan fight. Republicans accused Democrats of targeting the court because of its conservative majority.
“This is a political attack directed at a justice they hate,” Senator Ted Cruz said.
“This is not about making the court better. This is about destroying a conservative court,” Senator Lindsey Graham said.
Senator John Kennedy insists making rules for the high court would violate constitutional separation of powers.
“No branch of the federal government can dictate how another should govern itself. That’s black letter law,” Kennedy said.
As polls show falling public trust in the Supreme Court, advocates argue something has to be done to fix the court’s reputation.