Supreme Court disclosure requirements tackle gifts and free trips

It may shock readers, but the United States Supreme Court – unlike all other federal courts – does not adhere to an enforceable ethics code.

The lack of an enforceable ethics code with penalties for Supreme Court justices is a glaring omission in the nation’s ethics laws. There is not even a legal mechanism to force justices to recuse themselves when they have a clear conflict of interest in a case before the Court.

There is good news on this front, as The Hill reports:

Supreme Court justices must follow strengthened financial disclosure requirements surrounding gifts and free hotel stays, which follows rising pressure from lawmakers about the high court’s ethics rules.

The new regulations quietly went into effect on March 14 and clarify that the justices — and all federal judges — must disclose gifts and free stays at commercial properties, or when gifts of hospitality are being reimbursed by a third party who is not the person providing it.

A committee of the Judicial Conference, which sets policy for the federal courts, approved the new regulations, according to a letter from the director of the federal courts’ administrative arm that was made public on Tuesday.

We welcome these new requirements, although it is hardly enough to give Americans confidence in the Supreme Court’s adherence to the highest ethical standards. In fact, all this does is require reporting. It does not impose an ethics code with penalties. It’s better than nothing, but it’s far from sufficient.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) welcomed the news in an interview with Lawrence O’Donnell, which you can watch below:

Photo Credit: Wally Gobetz, Flickr