U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Fairport, NY)
By BRIAN TUMULTY
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court may have the final word on the law, but its justices shouldn't have sole discretion to decide if their own behavior is ethical, Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter said Tuesday.
"Because the Supreme Court does not adhere to the code of conduct for (other) United States judges, they have granted themselves immunity from the standards of behavior that apply to every other justice in the land,'' Slaughter said on the sidewalk in front of the court.
Joined by Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, Slaughter said 31 members of Congress have signed a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts urging the court to formally adopt a judicial code of ethics. New York Reps. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, and Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, are among the signatories.
Similar letters have been sent by government watchdog groups and more than 200 law professors.
The letters were prompted by reports over the last three years that Supreme Court justices have spoken at fundraisers for advocacy groups such as the Federalist Society, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the National Association of Broadcasters.
With controversial cases pending this year involving affirmative action and the constitutionality of the 2010 health care reform law, "there should not even be a hint of bias or favoritism'' on the court, Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, said.
Slaughter said pressuring the court to adopt a code of conduct is consistent with her six-year push to enact the STOCK Act, which would explicitly prohibit members of Congress from using insider information to buy or sell stock.
"I'm serious when I say that no matter your position or your power in Washington, you should be held to the same standard of conduct as every other American who you serve,'' Slaughter said.
Differing versions of the STOCK Act have passed the House and Senate by overwhelming margins, but the two chambers have not yet agreed on a final version of the bill.
By BRIAN TUMULTY