May 2, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Durbin: Highest U.S. court shouldn't have "lowest ethical standards"

Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, speaks during a hearing in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Sen. Dick Durbin speaks during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on April 19, 2023. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called Tuesday for ethics reforms at the Supreme Court, including a code of conduct with "clear and enforceable rules."

Driving the news: "This is untenable, ethics cannot simply be left to the discretion of the nation's highest court," Durbin, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said during a committee hearing.

  • "The highest court in the land shouldn't have the lowest ethical standards," he continued.
  • "That reality is driving a crisis in public confidence in the Supreme Court. The status quo must change."

The big picture: The hearing comes as calls from Senate Democrats for reform at the Supreme Court are mounting, following a recent ProPublica report detailing lavish gifts Justice Clarence Thomas received for more than two decades from billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow.

  • Durbin previously issued an invitation to Chief Justice John Roberts or "another Justice who you designate" to testify at the hearing.
  • Roberts declined the invitation and no other Supreme Court Justice made an appearance.
  • Over a dozen Senate Democrats have supported a proposal to compel the high court to create or adopt an ethics code for justices by attaching language to next year's funding bill.
  • The Supreme Court is the only court in the federal judiciary that does not have a formal code of ethics for its nine members.
  • Some Democrats have called for Thomas to resign in the wake of the revelations.

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