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Chief Justice Roberts’ ethics violations make it clear: We need a SCOTUS ethics code!
We urge you to pass the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal and Transparency Act to enact urgently-needed ethical standards for the Supreme Court. Jane Roberts, the wife of Chief Justice John Roberts, makes millions of dollars per year placing lawyers at top D.C. law firms, some of which argue cases in front of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roberts has not fully disclosed these conflicts of interest, and has failed to recuse himself in cases involving law firms employing his wife’s clients. This is only the latest in a series of ethics violations that have undermined public trust in the courts.
Why is this important?
You’ve already heard the news that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife Ginni Thomas was involved in the January 6 plot to overthrow our government. And that Justice Thomas refuses to recuse himself from cases related to January 6.1
But Chief Justice John Roberts also has a serious ethics conflict due to the work of his spouse, Jane Roberts. The New York Times recently reported that Jane Roberts, a legal recruiter, has earned millions in commissions for recruiting attorneys for jobs at law firms, which include firms that have cases before the Supreme Court. A significant portion of Jane Roberts' clients are senior government lawyers whom she helps place at private law firms. This is a clear conflict of interest for Chief Justice Roberts, and yet more evidence that we need a strong code of ethics for SCOTUS.2
Chief Justice Roberts has failed to recuse himself from a single case involving law firms working with his spouse. He also has not fully disclosed his wife’s clients or her earnings. Senator Durbin said that these are “troubling issues that once again demonstrate the need” for ethics reforms to “begin the process of restoring faith in the Supreme Court.”2
Public trust in the Supreme Court is already at an all time low. The Court has pursued a right-wing agenda, regularly ignoring long-standing precedents, such as in its overturning of Roe v. Wade. This year the Court will rule on another set of cases that will carry serious implications for civil rights, student debt relief, workers’ right to organize, and more. Following the revelations about the ethics violations of Justice Thomas and Chief Justice Roberts, now is the time to pass the Supreme Court Ethics Act.3
NPR, “Legal ethics experts agree: Justice Thomas must recuse in insurrection cases,” March 30, 2022.
New York Times, “At the Supreme Court, Ethics Questions Over a Spouse’s Business Ties,” January 31, 2023.
The Hill, “Calls grow for stronger ethics rules for Supreme Court justices, families,” October 31, 2022.