The Supreme Court is back in the news and it’s for all the wrong reasons. ProPublica reports that Justice Clarence Thomas has vacationed on private jets and superyachts all paid for by billionaire Harlan Crow. But Thomas didn’t disclose those trips. And his actions are just the Court’s latest ethics scandal. Last summer someone leaked the decision in Dobbs, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade. And the New York Times reports that the Supreme Court Historical Society – which is technically a charity – has raised over $23 million in the last two decades from private donors. The Society often hosts events where those private donors can meet and mingle with the Justices behind closed doors.
That level of access to the Justices matters because each year the Court decides cases that impact everything from reproductive rights to gun control and the environment. The appearance that some people can buy influence on the court undermines the idea that everyone has an equal opportunity to have their case heard and fairly decided. In theory, there would be ethics laws in place to prevent a sitting Justice from accepting secret swanky vacations on superyachts and Adirondack hideaways. But do those laws really exist?
To help us understand judicial ethics and what can be done to keep the Justices accountable, we have Caroline Fredrickson and Alan Neff.
Caroline is a Visiting Professor at Georgetown Law and a Senior Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. Alan recently co-edited Rule of Law this week for the American Constitution Society and is a former lawyer for the City of Chicago. They are both experts on judicial ethics and the judicial system.
Listen to the podcast (transcript available as well) by clicking below.