© 2024 Maine Public | Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Scroll down to see all available streams.

Sen. King backs bill requiring U.S. Supreme Court to create code of conduct

J. Scott Applewhite

Maine's independent senator is cosponsoring legislation that would require the U.S. Supreme Court to create a code of conduct. It would make the country's highest court abide by rules similar to those followed by the executive and legislative branches.

The bill backed by U.S. Senators Angus King and Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is called the Supreme Court Code of Conduct Act. It's in direct response to reporting from ProPublica detailing the relationship between GOP megadonor Harlan Crow and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

The reporting found lavish trips and undisclosed property sales between the two. Thomas has said he was advised he did not have to report the trips. It has increased scrutiny of the justices' disclosures — Politico reported Tuesday that Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch sold property to a law firm that has had several cases before the court, but did not disclose their identity.

The bill would not create a code but require the court to make its own. It would also create a position to review potential conflicts of interest and public complaints.

King told reporters on Wednesday that confidence in the court is at an all-time low.

"It's clear that one of the one of the areas that we need to define is what are the ethical constraints on Supreme Court justices on things like receipt of gifts, travel, honoraria, all of those kinds of things," King said. "And reassurances from the chief justice that we're going to consult the substance of the rules doesn't cut it."

King was referring to Chief Justice John Roberts declining to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing about ethical standards for the justices.

An ethics statement signed by the justices says the body tries to follow standards the lower courts follow. But it also says justices have the ability to decide what they recuse themselves on.

Reporter Caitlin Andrews came to Maine Public in 2023 after nearly eight years in print journalism. She hails from New Hampshire originally.