Washington: The Supreme Court is speaking with one voice in response to recent criticism of the justices’ ethical practices: No need to fix what isn’t broken.
The justices’ response on Tuesday struck some critics and ethics experts as tone deaf at a time of heightened attention on the justices’ travel and private business transactions. That comes against the backdrop of a historic dip in public approval as measured by opinion polls.
Deeply divided on some of the most contentious issues of the day — including abortion, gun rights and the place of religion in public life — the court’s six conservatives and three liberals seem united on this particular principle: on ethics they will set their own rules and police themselves.
Charles Geyh, an Indiana University law professor and legal ethics expert, said everything the justices detailed Tuesday evening about ethics was essentially outlined in Chief Justice John Roberts’ annual year-end report from 2011, more than a decade ago.
“They’re basically saying … What we’ve been doing is just fine. Let’s just re-say it for those of you at the back…That just strikes me as, you know, pretty empty,” Geyh said.
The most recent stories about the questionable ethics practices of justices began earlier this month. First came a ProPublica investigation that revealed that Thomas has for more than two decades accepted luxury trips nearly every year from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow without reporting them on financial disclosure forms. Thomas responded by issuing a statement saying that he was not required to disclose the trips.