Remarks of Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice,
at a news conference concerning
the Supreme Court Ethics Act of 2013

Washington, D.C., August 1, 2013

 This statement is available online at:  http://www.afj.org/press/08012013.html

This is a very important day for all of us who have been working to ensure the integrity of one of the cornerstones of American democracy—the United States Supreme Court.

Alliance for Justice is very happy to stand today in support of this legislation that once and for all will ensure that the highest court in the land will be held to the highest ethical standards.

Let me thank Senators Murphy, Blumenthal, and Whitehouse, and Rep. Slaughter, for their outstanding leadership and for their commitment to protecting the honor of this vitally important institution.

The timing of this bill could not be better. We have just completed one of the most momentous Supreme Court terms in recent memory.

In recent months, all eyes have been on the Court and its justices. The kinds of cases that were decided this year are a stark reminder of the central role the Supreme Court plays in American life. Whether we agree or disagree with its decisions, it is vitally important that every American believe that the process of justice is fair and that the justices act with the highest possible standards of integrity.

At a time when polls show public confidence in the Court is waning, there must be no doubt that all the justices share a common understanding of their ethical responsibilities and have access to clear rules about how they can meet those responsibilities.

It’s no secret that we have had concerns about the activities of some justices in recent years, which we believe have stretched the boundaries of propriety beyond where they should be.

This bill provides a simple solution to prevent these problems from happening again — Require the Court to adopt clear, written rules that establish standards by which justices’ behavior can be guided and assessed by both themselves and the American people.

The need for formal ethical standards for judges is hardly revolutionary.  Every single federal judge must abide by the Code of Conduct for United States Judges. Every single one, except the nine justices of the Supreme Court.

That must change. This thoughtful and respectful bill meets every constitutional standard and respects the prerogatives of the Court, but, most importantly, meets the simple standard of common sense.

The basic principle behind this bill is very straightforward: No one in our federal system, no public official, no participant in our legal system, should be exempt from following formal, clearly stated ethical principles. No exceptions. Certainly not for the nation’s top court where our lives and freedoms are on the line.

This bill represents a long-overdue step toward restoring public confidence in the integrity, independence, and impartiality of the nine men and women in which so much is entrusted.

We urge all members of Congress to follow the lead of Senators Murphy, Blumenthal, and Whitehouse, and Representative Slaughter, and support this bill to require the Court to meet the ethical standards that every American expects and our system of justice requires.

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Alliance for Justice is a national association of over 100 organizations, representing a broad array of groups committed to progressive values and the creation of an equitable, just, and free society. Through our justice programs, we lead the progressive community in the fight for a fair judiciary, and through our advocacy programs, we help nonprofits and foundations to realize their advocacy potential.  Learn more about Alliance for Justice at www.afj.org