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SCOTUS adopts its first-ever "code of ethics"

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The U.S. Supreme Court is adopting a code of ethics for its justices amid mounting criticism of gifts and trips from wealthy benefactors to certain justices.




The U.S. Supreme Court is adopting a code of ethics for its justices — a first — amid mounting criticism of gifts and trips from wealthy benefactors to certain justices.


In an unsigned statement, the justices said though there has been no formal code, they have long abided by certain standards.


"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," they wrote. "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."



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Very similar overall to the existing guidelines for federal judges.


Here's what GPT4 thinks are the major differences between that and the new SC guidelines:



The Code of Conduct for Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, established on November 13, 2023, has several notable differences from the existing Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges. Here are some key distinctions:

1. **Broadly Wording of Canons**: The Canons in the Supreme Court Justices' Code are described as broadly worded general principles rather than specific rules, necessitating the exercise of judgment and discretion. This is particularly significant given the complex and contentious nature of cases the Supreme Court handles【13†source】.

2. **Adaptation to the Supreme Court's Unique Setting**: The Code for Supreme Court Justices is substantially derived from the Code for U.S. Judges but has been adapted for the unique institutional setting of the Supreme Court. For example, it provides specific guidance in some instances, such as a Justice not testifying voluntarily as a character witness or serving as the executor for a family member's estate or trust【14†source】.

3. **Security and Assistance for Justices**: The Code acknowledges the high-profile nature of Supreme Court Justices and allows them to receive comprehensive security protection. It also permits court officials and chambers staff to assist Justices with various activities, recognizing the distinct security concerns and public interest in the Justices' activities compared to lower court judges【15†source】.

4. **Recusal Provisions**: The recusal provisions in the Supreme Court Justices' Code are different from those in the lower court Code. They restate the Justices' 1993 Statement of Recusal Policy, recognize the duty to sit, and acknowledge that the rule of necessity may override the rule of disqualification. Unlike lower courts, the loss of even one Justice can significantly impact the Court's decision-making process【16†source】【18†source】.

5. **Narrower Interpretation of Known Interests for Recusal**: Due to the broad scope of cases and the nationwide impact of Supreme Court decisions, provisions related to the known interests of third-degree relatives that might be affected by a case's outcome are construed narrowly【17†source】.

6. **Restrictions on Political Activity**: Justices are prohibited from acting as leaders or holding office in political organizations, making speeches for political organizations or candidates, publicly endorsing or opposing political candidates, soliciting funds for or contributing to political organizations or candidates, and similar activities. If a Justice becomes a candidate in an election, they must resign from their judicial office【19†source】.

7. **Encouragement of Extrajudicial Activities**: The Code encourages Justices to engage in various extrajudicial activities, as long as they do not compromise independence and impartiality. These activities include educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic extracurricular activities, even if they are not related to the law. However, a Justice should not use judicial chambers resources or staff for activities that do not support official functions or permitted activities under the Canons【20†source】.

These differences reflect the Supreme Court's unique role and the distinct challenges faced by its Justices compared to other federal judges.


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