On Monday, the Supreme Court released a new “code of conduct” laying out ethical principles that the justices claim they have always adhered to — and arguing that the only reason such a code is necessary is because the Court’s critics don’t understand how things actually work.
It’s the first time in its history that the Court has published a formal ethics code — but the introduction to this particular code makes it clear that the justices did so only reluctantly, and that they don’t actually intend for anything to change.
“For the most part these rules and principles are not new,” the introduction to the code claims, adding that “the absence of a Code … has led in recent years to the misunderstanding that the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules.” The new code was created “to dispel” this supposed “misunderstanding,” the justices write, and it “largely represents a codification of principles that we have long regarded as governing our conduct.”
The code, in other words, codifies the same rules that Justice Clarence Thomas followed when he spent nine days vacationing on Republican billionaire Harlan Crow’s superyacht — a trip which “could have exceeded $500,000” in value, according to ProPublica. The code also locks in place the same rules Thomas followed during his frequent summer trips to Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks. The code “represents a codification of principles” that Thomas followed when he bought a $267,230 RV that was underwritten by Anthony Welters, another of the many wealthy individuals who have lavished gifts on Thomas since he joined the Court. [Continue reading…]