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11-02-23 Supreme Court Justices Ethics and Recusal Rules – Letter by US Law Professors_BLT

11-02-23 Supreme Court Justices Ethics and Recusal Rules – Letter by US Law Professors_BLT

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Published by: Human Rights Alert, NGO on Feb 26, 2011
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Human Rights Alert 
PO Box 526, La Verne, CA 91750Fax: 323.488.9697; Email: jz12345@earthlink.net
11-02-23 Supreme Court Justices Ethics and Recusal Rules – Letter by US Law Professors
FEBRUARY 24, 2011
Law Profs Urge Ethics Rules for Supreme Court Justices 
More than 100 law professors have signed on to a
released today that proposes congressional hearings andlegislation aimed at fashioning "mandatory and enforceable" ethics rules for Supreme Court justices for the firsttime. The effort, coordinated by the liberal Alliance for Justice, was triggered by "recent media reports," theletter said, apparently referring to stories of meetings and other potential conflicts of interest involvingJustices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas among others.The professors note that the Court is not covered by the code of conduct that lower federal court judges arerequired to follow. The Supreme Court has long said it looks to the code for "guidance" -- a concession which,the signers agree, "has proved insufficient." The letter also points out disapprovingly that individual justicesalone decide whether they should or should not recuse in a given case, not subject to review by anyone else,and with no requirement to explain their decisions. We delved into the recusal issue in a
in ournewsletterSupreme Court Insider (subscription required.)"Adherence to mandatory ethical rules by justices, and requiring transparent, reviewable recusal decisions thatdo not turn solely on the silent opinion of the challenged justice will reinforce the integrity and legitimacy of the Supreme Court," the letter asserted.The professors directed their letter to the leaders of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, with an eyetoward hearings and legislation that would apply and enforce the code of conduct on Supreme Court justices,and impose rules for transparency and review of justices' recusal decisions.In making their case, the professors invoked the Court's own language from the 2009
in Caperton v.A.T. Massey Coal Co., which disapproved of a state judge's refusal to step aside from a case that involved amajor campaign donor. "Judicial integrity is," the Court said, "a state interest of the highest order."Alliance for Justice president Nan Aron said her group became involved with the letter-writing effort afterconsulting with some legal ethics experts in the context of the growing controversy over meetings withconservative groups by Thomas and Scalia, as well as lobbying activities by Thomas's wife Virginia. "They werealarmed about what was happening," said Aron, so she agreed to "shepherd" the professors' letter through tofruition. "The time is overdue," Aron said, for new ethics rules for the high court.Among the signers are leading names and experts on legal and judicial ethics, including Stanford Law School'sDeborah Rhode, George Washington University Law School's Stephen Saltzburg and Alan Morrison, James Alfiniof South Texas College of Law, Yale Law School's Lawrence Fox, Amanda Frost and Herman Schwartz of American University Washington College of Law, Northwestern University School of Law's Steven Lubet andEllen Yaroshefsky of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.Notably absent, however, was Stephen Gillers of New York University School of Law, perhaps the best knownlegal ethics expert nationally. Asked about the letter today, Gillers said he agreed with most of it, but partedways with the group over the recusal issue. Requiring justices to submit their recusal decisions for review byother justices, he said, could lead to "the appearance of opportunistic behavior" aimed at keeping a colleagueon or off the case, and could spoil the Court's collegiality. Citing the current "highly politicized" debate overjustices' ethics, Gillers also said he would rather that hearings and legislation take place "in a more neutraltime."
Posted by Tony Mauro on February 24, 2011 at 01:31 PM inPolitics and Government,Supreme Court|Permalink  Digg This|Save to del.icio.us 

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