February 23, 2011- A group of more than a hundred law professors from across the country has asked Congress to extend an ethical code of conduct to the Supreme Court – for the first time – and clarify when individual justices should step away from specific legal cases.
The group's appeal on Wednesday, in a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary committees, comes after recent controversies involving travel and appearances at political events by several Supreme Court justices, including Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Rep. Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.) said he plans to introduce legislation that addresses the issue.
Thomas and Scalia have been criticized by a public interest group for attending private political meetings sponsored in January 2007 and 2008 by David and Charles Koch, conservative billionaires who made large contributions during last year's election and have financially backed the tea party movement.
Precisely what happened at those meetings remains unclear, but neither of the justices' routine financial disclosures mentioned that the Kochs had organized the events. Supporters of reform say that would change if the same ethics rules that applied to lesser judges were applied to the Supreme Court.
The Kochs own oil, gas and paper businesses involved in hundreds of legal cases in federal court. The nonprofit group Common Cause has complained that the controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision on campaign financing last year – on a narrow majority backed by Thomas and Scalia – opened the door to heightened corporate contributions from the Koch empire.