The Supreme Court Will Adopt a New Code of Ethics

November 14, 2023

The undersigned Justices are promulgating this Code of Conduct to set out succinctly and gather in one place the ethics rules and principles that guide the conduct of the Members of the Court.

The Supreme Court of the United States said in its new Code of Conduct released on Monday.

The Big Picture: On Monday, the Supreme Court announced that they have adopted a new 14-page Code of Conduct and accompanying Commentary, which all nine justices have signed. In announcing the code, the Supreme Court states, “The absence of a Code … has led in recent years to the misunderstanding that the Justices of this Court … regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules. To dispel this misunderstanding, we are issuing this Code, which largely represents a codification of principles that we have long regarded as governing our conduct.”

Among the guidance, the code notes that Justices should not allow outside relationships “to influence official conduct,” reiterates the limiting of accepting gifts and notes that Justices should refrain from engaging in political activity.

There is no official enforcement mechanism, however, the commentary accompanying the code quotes “the late Justice Tom C. Clark’s observation that ‘judges ‘must bear the primary responsibility for requiring [appropriate] judicial behavior’” and outlines “various steps that the court may take to ‘assist the Justices in complying with’ the code” (SCOTUS Blog). Some have concerns regarding the lack of an enforcement mechanism.

Context: Trust in the Supreme Court has fallen amid reports that Justice Clarence Thomas received gifts and trips from a Republican donor and that Justice Samuel Alito failed to disclose a luxury fishing trip with a man who had cases before the Court.

Read More:

Read the Code of Conduct

The Supreme Court adopts first-ever code of ethics (NPR)

Under fire, US Supreme Court unveils code for justices (Reuters)

by Sarah Pinkerton,