Senate Judiciary Committee Approves U.S. Supreme Court Ethics Bill

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.

Read the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, & Transparency Act here.

Track the status of the bill here.