The Washington Post

Chief Justice Roberts rejects request for code of conduct

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. told a group of Democratic senators that the Supreme Court is not going to formally adopt a judicial code of conduct that governs the actions of other federal judges.

Roberts told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) in a one-paragraph letter that he had already explained in his year-end report on the judiciary why the Code of Conduct for United States Judges was not applicable to the Supreme Court.

Although the justices view the code as the “starting point and a key source of guidance” for themselves, Roberts said in the report, the court has “no reason to adopt the Code of Conduct as its definitive source of ethical guidance.”

In the report, the chief justice had defended his eight colleagues as “jurists of exceptional integrity and experience” and said it was a misconception that they do not follow the same set of ethical principles as other judges.

Members of Congress, a group of law professors and outside groups have called upon the court to adopt the code of conduct. But Roberts said that would not commit the justices to do anything more than they already do and noted that congressional attempts to force the issue would raise separation-of-powers issues.

The U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Leahy and four other Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee sent Roberts a letter this month saying that if the court already abided by the code, why not simply adopt it.

“We hope to increase public trust and confidence in all of our institutions, including the Supreme Court,” wrote Leahy, Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Al Franken (Minn.) . The five said they “do not intend to question or impugn the ethics of any individual Justice” by making the request.

Roberts did release a copy of a 1991 resolution the court adopted in which it said that the justices would abide by the same regulations on gifts and outside income that govern other judges.

Robert Barnes has been a Washington Post reporter and editor since 1987. He has covered the Supreme Court since November 2006.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The New Hampshire primary is today. Get caught up on the race.
What to expect in the New Hampshire primary
The Post's Philip Bump says ...
Since he proclaimed that he'd win New Hampshire last summer, Bernie Sanders has seen a swing of about 50 points in his direction. Impressive. But not as impressive as the guy on the other side of the political aisle. Donald Trump has led the Republican field in New Hampshire for almost 200 days, and has held a lead in 51 straight live-caller polls -- every poll stretching back to last July.
The feminist appeal may not be working for Clinton
In New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders is beating Clinton among women by eight percentage points, according to a new CNN-WMUR survey. This represents a big shift from the results last week in the Iowa caucuses, where Clinton won women by 11 points.
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the state.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont.
56% 41%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.