WASHINGTON, D.C., October 12, 2018 – In the latest edition of Yeomans Work, AFJ Senior Justice Fellow Bill Yeomans writes that in the wake of the Kavanaugh confirmation, the Supreme Court cries out for reform. Says Yeomans: “The Court is now indisputably a political institution in which Republican justices will move the law inexorably to the right in furtherance of the Republican agenda. By further weakening public confidence in the Court’s independence and neutrality, Republicans have damaged its legitimacy. Congress must begin to repair the Court.”
One of the first items on the agenda, Yeomans believes, should be a code of conduct for the Court. He notes that in recent days, complaints about Kavanaugh’s behavior were referred by Chief Justice John Roberts to the Tenth Circuit to be addressed. But now that Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court, the matter will be dropped. “Because the code of conduct and disciplinary process that govern court of appeals judges do not apply to Supreme Court justices, Kavanaugh will escape accountability,” Yeomans observes. “The law must be changed.”
The issue of recusal for Supreme Court justices is another that should be addressed. Writes Yeomans: “Kavanaugh’s angry, intemperate, and partisan tirade before the Judiciary Committee requires close monitoring of his recusal decisions. He denounced the Clintons, Democrats, and groups on the left, creating the appearance, at least, that he cannot fairly adjudicate claims involving them.” But each justice decides for himself or herself whether to recuse from a case, and there is no rule governing recusal or requirement that the justices provide a reason.
Finally, Yeomans suggests it might be time for progressives to look at expanding the Court — even though conventional wisdom has “morphed into a norm that has held it unacceptable to manipulate the number of justices.” Norms, he suggests, have already been discarded by the Trump Administration and Senate GOP leadership.
Yeomans Work focuses on the challenges to the justice system in the era of Trump. Bill Yeomans is available for media interviews. Contact Laurie Kinney, Communications Director, at [email protected] or 202-464-7367.