WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, July 20, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, & Transparency (SCERT) Act, a bill that would implement sweeping ethics reforms for the U.S. Supreme Court. The bill advanced on a party line vote, with all 11 Democrats voting for the bill and all 10 Republicans voting against it.
Introduced in February of this year, the bill takes a multifaceted approach to reforming the Court as it would implement an enforceable code of conduct on the Court and strengthen disclosure and recusal requirements in a bid to increase transparency.
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who is co-leading the legislation in the House, said: “By mandating that the Supreme Court develop and adopt a code of ethics and establishing common-sense transparency and recusal standards, this bill would help restore the Court’s reputation and reinforce that none of us — not even Supreme Court Justices — are above the law.”
Calls for Court reform have amplified in recent years, with the Court suffering from a historically low approval rating while also dealing with a flurry of ethics scandals hitting the Court, most notably involving Justice Clarence Thomas.
Specifically, the bill would:
- Create an investigative board that will review complaints submitted against the justices,
- Require justices to adhere to the same gift, travel and income disclosure standards as members of Congress,
- Require recusal of a justice if a party or affiliate in a case lobbied or spent substantial funds to get the justice confirmed and
- Close a loophole that currently requires complaints against judges to be dismissed once those judges are elevated to the Supreme Court.
The bill now heads to the Senate for full consideration.