Each Supreme Court justice just signed onto a new code of conduct.
The new code lacks any enforcement mechanism and doesn't forbid justices from leaking decisions.
It comes months after reports detailed ethical missteps by various members of the high court.
After a series of reports throughout 2023 alleged ethical missteps by various members of the Supreme Court, each justice signed a newly developed code of conduct.
The code of conduct notes that despite that most of the principles and rules in it are not new — they've been tied to Supreme Court justices through various other rulings — the very fact that the Supreme Court didn't have its own code of conduct before needed to be rectified to clear up any misunderstandings.
"The absence of a Code, however, has led in recent years to the misunderstanding that the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules," the code of conduct reads. "To dispel this misunderstanding, we are issuing this Code, which largely represents a codification of principles that we have long regarded as governing our conduct."
The code further lays out a set of criteria in which they should remove themselves from a case which includes having financial interests or any time "where an unbiased and reasonable person who is aware of all relevant circumstances would doubt that the Justice could fairly discharge his or her duties."
It also establishes that justices are allowed to attend fundraising events, but only if they're not on the billing nor are knowingly the guest of honor.
Strikingly missing anywhere in its 15 pages is any form of an enforcement mechanism. If any single justice is found to have violated the new contract, there doesn't appear to be any apparent consequences other than whatever form of discipline the chief justice hands down.
There's also nothing in the code of conduct that forbids a justice from leaking a draft of a Supreme Court decision before it becomes official, as is what happened before the court overturned decades of abortion precedent in 2022.
Several justices previously voiced their support for a code of conduct in recent months after reports were published alleging Justice Clarence Thomas accepted lavish trips and vacations from billionaire Harlan Crow. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Sam Alito have also been under the microscope as well for accused ethical improprieties.
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