5 the reason why ethics questions are raised more often before the Supreme Court today than previously

In recent years, all nine meeting Judge At The US Highest Court were the topic of reports query their ethics.

Is this an old problem? Something latest? Political tactics? Something more serious?

As a legal scholar who studied Legal history, politics and ethicsMy answer to every of those questions is “yes”.

On the one hand, it’s nothing latest to accuse a Supreme Court justice of ethical misconduct. In 1804 Judge Samuel Chase was indicted from the House of Representatives, but acquitted by the Senatebecause he had violated his oath to act “faithfully and impartially” in several cases. For example, in a single case he gave his opinion of the law before the accused was questioned, and in one other he delivered an “excessive and political tirade.”

On the opposite hand, such accusations were rarer back then. Now they’ve develop into more common, for five reasons:

1. Ethical sentiments have modified

Some judicial conduct that was acceptable then is unethical today. Although it’s taboo today, Supreme Court judges used to Hear appeals from cases they’ve decided as trial judges, and run for political office without first leaving the court.

2. The impartiality of judges is not any longer assumed

A statue of a man in a robe and long wig holding a large book.
A statue of the 18th-century English lawyer William Blackstone stands on Constitution Avenue in Washington.
Modeled by Paul Wayland Bartlett, via Wikimedia Commons

In the 18th century, the good British lawyer William Blackstone wrote: “the law will not accept the possibility of bias or favoritism on the part of a judge.” Impartiality was simply assumed. Later, federal law required judges to disqualify themselves for specific conflicts of interestfor instance, in the event that they had a financial interest in a case or a detailed relative was a celebration. But well into the twentieth century couldn’t otherwise be disqualified on account of personal bias.

In the Thirties, nonetheless, legal realism emerged as a college of thought, first in law schools after which amongst most of the people. It was based on the premise that judges weren’t automatons, insensitive to external influences, but people, are subject to the identical prejudices like the remainder of us. Bias and conflicts of interest thus became problems with heightened concern, requiring greater scrutiny and regulation.

3. Ethics has develop into mainstream and is used as a weapon

As the general public became aware of ideological and other biases within the judiciary, efforts began to higher regulate judicial impartiality and ethics. Yet politicians, pundits, and interest groups also found ways to use public concerns about ethics to undermine judges whose ideological predispositions they disapproved of.

In the Sixties, conservatives became increasingly concerned about what they saw because the liberal bias of the Supreme Court in the course of the tenure of Chief Justice Earl Warren. When Democratic President Lyndon Johnson nominated liberal Associate Justice Abe Fortas to switch Warren in 1968, Republicans' real interest in police ethics combined with their partisan interest in changing the court's ideological orientation. At issue were serious allegations that Fortas had discussed pending cases in illegal private meetings with Johnson and had accepted improper payments from corporations whose cases were before the court, which led to Fortas withdraws his candidacy for promotion to Supreme Court Justice and later resigned from his position as judge on account of latest allegations.

In 1969, the Democratic Senate majority, with some Republican support, rejected Republican President Richard Nixon’s nomination of Judge Clement Haynsworth to the Supreme Court after he was accused of Haynsworth had ruled in favor of a company defendant whose subsidiaries did business with an organization through which Haynsworth owned shares.

And in 1970, Republican Congressman and later President Gerald Ford proposed impeaching liberal judge William O. Douglas for ethical irregularities. One reason was Douglas' failure to disqualify himself from a libel suit after selling an article to the defendant publisher. Another was his paid work as a director of a charitable foundation whose founder was involved in Las Vegas casinos with underworld ties.

4. Codes of conduct for judges emerged and spread

The opening text of the Supreme Court Code of Ethics, 2023.
The Supreme Court's 2023 Code of Ethics has been criticized as weak and unenforceable.
Supreme Court of the United States

The ethical turmoil surrounding the Supreme Court within the Sixties led to the introduction of judicial ethics codes in all places – but paradoxically not on the Supreme Court.

In 1972, the American Bar Association published a Code of Conduct for Judges This concept was eventually adopted by the judiciary of all 50 states and the lower federal courts.

Judges are often introduced into their codes of ethics after they take the bench. They will probably be informed of their obligations in Continuing legal education schemes, encouraged to hunt ethical leadership by committees arrange for this purpose and are subject to sanctions within the event of misconduct by Disciplinary bodies inside their judicial systems.

An ethically conscious culture that has long been anchored within the lower courts is missing within the Supreme Court, which doesn’t adopt its code by November 2023In addition, the Supreme Court Code weaker than those of the lower courts. It doesn’t require judges to take “appropriate action” in the event that they learn that a colleague has violated the code. It ignores the duty to faithfully abide by the law. It relaxes restrictions on using judicial resources for personal purposes and the exploitation of a judge's official status for private gain. And it says that the duty to disqualify when there’s doubt about impartiality is weakened by the necessity for all nine judges to preside.

Nine people in black robes pose for a group photo.
Every sitting member of the U.S. Supreme Court has had ethical questions raised regarding their conduct that point.
Fred Schilling, Supreme Court Collection of the United States

5. A growing cult of celebrities surrounds the judges

Some members of the Supreme Court, including the late Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, have embraces a cult of celebritiesThey have openly displayed their ideological predispositions in speeches, articles, and in skilled and private contexts, and are revered by ideologically aligned groups, fueling suspicions that they will not be sufficiently committed to an impartial judiciary.

Concerns in regards to the ethics of the Supreme Court are nothing latest, but they’ve develop into more acute in modern times.

The problem is exacerbated by the court's critics, who exaggerate allegations of ethical misconduct to advance partisan arguments, and by the justices themselves, who, within the absence of a longtime culture that has internalized ethical expectations, are oblivious to the smell of their very own conduct.

image credit : theconversation.com