Radical Judicial ‘Ethics’ Bill Heads to Senate Floor

July 21, 2023
Judicial Ethics | First Liberty Institute

by Jorge Gomez • 6 min read

The radical Supreme Court Coup is in full swing. This week, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance a bill artfully titled the “Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act.” It passed on a strict party-line vote.

On its face, the bill appears benign. It would require the nation’s highest court to adopt a binding code of conduct, adhere to more stringent disclosure requirements and explain recusal decisions to the public. But under the guise of “transparency” and “accountability,” Americans are being told this is not a controversial proposal. But don’t be deceived. It is a radical, far-reaching piece of legislation that could severely damage the Court’s independence and the rule of law.

This legislation came about only because politicians and radical activist groups are enraged that the Supreme Court is no longer rubber-stamping their agenda. In response, they fabricated a corruption crisis. The Left is keeping up the steady stream of accusations against conservative-appointed justices with alleged disclosure failures, while ignoring similar omissions by liberal-appointed justices.

As First Liberty has warned, this bill is part of an all-out scheme by one political party to take control of the Supreme Court. It’s a brazen attempt to grab more power. The manufactured scandals are all about making Americans hallucinate misconduct. By raising questions about character, the Left is seeking to undermine the authority of justices and the authority of their rulings. First Liberty President and CEO Kelly Shackelford—joined by former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese—wrote in The Wall Street Journal the real reason behind these attacks: “Liberals are trying to subvert the legitimacy of the Supreme Court because it contains a majority of justices committed to the Constitution and the rule of law.”

Legal scholar Thomas Jipping of the Heritage Foundation echoes our warnings and exposes the bill for what it really is:

“Who could be against ethics, right? Well, this legislation is not about ethics, recusal, or transparency. It’s about appearing to respond to a fake ‘ethics crisis,’ but really creating new ways to manipulate the Supreme Court and its decisions….The Left is following an organized strategy to demonize Supreme Court decisions it doesn’t like by suggesting that the justices responsible for them are unethical, corrupt, or biased”

Americans must realize how much damage this is causing. It took centuries to build the Court’s legitimacy—and the Left is willing to destroy it overnight. What’s more, the “ethics” bill could be unconstitutional, according to Jipping:

“Since the Constitution, not Congress, created the Supreme Court, however, Congress has no authority to require the court to take that step. None other than Democrats’ favorite liberal scholar, professor emeritus Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, told them so. In a statement submitted for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in May, he wrote that any effort by Congress to impose a code of conduct on the Supreme Court would be nothing less than ‘a stark violation of the separation of powers.’”

Several senators on the Judiciary Committee strongly opposed the legislation this week. Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas; Mike Lee of Utah; and Chuck Grassley of Iowa all denounced the proposal as threatening America’s our constitutional system. Watch below:

The bill now heads to the Senate floor. But thankfully there are doubts whether it will ever become law.

“This bill is dead as fried chicken,” said Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana. “It doesn’t have 60 votes in the Senate. And it sure can’t pass the House. So why do it?…I just don’t get it. I understand politics, but I just don’t get it.”

The “ethics” bill is getting the most attention, but it is not the only extreme proposal. Court-packing—one of the most dangerous proposals—is still on the table. There’s currently a bill pending that would pack the Supreme Court with four additional justices.

What’s more, lawmakers introduced legislation last fall that would impose 18-year term limits and end life tenure for Supreme Court justices. It would also give Presidents the power to appoint a new justice every two years. Like what we are witnessing now, its proponents disguise its real intent by euphemistically calling it “term limits.” But as our experts explain at length, this is just another attempt at canceling justices. It’s better to call it “court purging.” It’s simply the Supreme Court Coup by a different name. It is packing—and effectively destroying—the Court, two years at a time.

One thing is clear: These proposals are not designed to make the judiciary better. They would not benefit our country. Whether it’s court-packing, term limits, “ethics” codes or any other radical changes, the results would be catastrophic. They would destroy our courts, turn judges into an extension of the party in power, and end the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court. Americans need to understand that fighting for religious liberty and our constitutional rights means nothing if we allow our highest court to be hijacked by power-hungry liberal zealots.

FLI Insider | Stop the Coup


NBC News: Key Senate Committee Advances Supreme Court Ethics Bill

The Daily Signal: Supreme Court Term Limits: Still a ‘Solution’ in Search of a Problem

National Review: Democratic “Ethics Reform” Power Play a Variation on Court Packing: Subtracting Justices

Heritage Foundation: Senate Democrats’ Supreme Court “Ethics” Bill Is Really About Disapproval of Rulings

The Federalist: If Democrats Are Worried About SCOTUS Ethics Rules, They Should Look Into Lefty Justices First

Washington Examiner: Sen. Kennedy: Democrats’ Supreme Court ethics bill is as ‘dead as fried chicken’

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