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Statutes, Code of Conduct, and Cases
- Code of Conduct for United States Judges: All federal judges except those on the Supreme Court are bound by this code’s ethical requirements.
- Published Advisory Opinions on the Code of Conduct for United States Judges: These opinions expand upon requirements in the code to provide more detailed ethical guidance to all federal judges except Supreme Court justices.
- Recusal Statute: 28 U.S.C. § 455 mandates when federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, must recuse themselves from hearing a case.
- Caperton v. A. T. Massey: The Court held that a West Virginia judge should have recused himself due to the risk of bias created substantial campaign donations received by a litigant. Explaining the importance of judicial ethics, the Court noted that ““these codes of conduct serve to maintain the integrity of the judiciary and the rule of law.”
- Letter from Rep. Murphy and 42 other members of the House calling for hearings on the Supreme Court Transparency and Disclosure Act
- Letter from Representative Murphy Calling for Judiciary Committee Hearings (June 2011)
- Common Cause Letter to Chief Justice John Roberts, 5/9/11: Common Cause wrote a letter to Chief Justice Roberts seeking clarification about the extent to which the Code of Conduct for United States Judges applies to the Supreme Court. The letter describes Capitol Hill testimony by Justices Breyer and Kennedy in which they stated that the Court has agreed internally to be bound by the Code. Common Cause contrasts the testimony with a statement by the Court's budget director, which described the Code as “principally advisory in nature, even for lower court judges” and characterized the testimony as referring to different regulations. The letter asks the Supreme Court to adopt a resolution embracing the Code.
- Common Cause Letter to the Department of Justice, 1/19/11: Common Cause wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder to formally request an investigation into whether Justices Scalia and Thomas should have recused themselves from hearing the Citizens United case. The letter details the justices’ participation in a secretive Koch Industries political retreat and the relationship that Justice Thomas’s wife, Virginia Thomas, had with a tea party organization that benefitted financially as a result of the decision.
- Common Cause Letter to the Judicial Conference, 1/21/11: Common Cause wrote a letter to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the governing body for ethics and reporting requirements for federal judges, to inform them that Justice Clarence Thomas failed to report the salary his wife earned at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and Liberty Central, a tea party lobbying organization. Justice Thomas checked the box for “None” for “Spouse’s Non-investment Income” on annual disclosure forms between 2003 and 2009. According to tax forms, Virginia Thomas earned over $120,000 annually between 2003 and 2007 at the Heritage Foundation and earned a salary in 2009 as the founding CEO of Liberty Central.
- Common Cause Letter to the Supreme Court, 2/14/11: Common Cause wrote a letter to the clerk of the Supreme Court seeking clarification of inconsistent explanations the court gave concerning Justice Clarence Thomas’s participation in a Koch Industries political retreat.
Materials Documenting Supreme Court Political and Fundraising Activities
- Koch Industries Invitation, 9/24/10: This letter and program are an invitation to a Koch Industries political retreat designed to “review strategies for combating the multitude of public policies that threaten to destroy America as we know it.” Page 13 of the document states that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas have spoken at previous Koch Industries political meetings.
- 2008-2009 ISI Donor Event Schedule: On April 30, 2009, Justice Samuel Alito attended a fundraising dinner for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative organization dedicated to bringing right-wing values to college campuses.