(LibertySociety.com) – On April 20th, 2023, Senator Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts of the United States Supreme Court, inviting him or another Justice to testify before the committee. In his letter, Senator Durbin called into question ethical concerns regarding the activities of the Justices, stating his belief that confidence needs to be restored in the Supreme Court regarding ethical standards.
Chief Justice Roberts responded on April 25th, 2023, declining Senator Durbin’s invitation, citing separation of powers concerns, stating that it is “exceedingly rare” for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to testify in front of Congress. Senator Durbin’s invitation came shortly after a ProPublica investigation into Justice Clarence Thomas was published regarding vacations he took with Harlan Crowe, a person whom his family has been friends with for over 23 years. Democrats such as Senator Durbin and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were up in arms about the report, with AOC claiming that she might file an impeachment article against Justice Thomas.
Justice Roberts cited the rare instances that Chief Justices have testified before Congress, while also directly addressing Senator Durbin’s concerns. A statement that was signed by all nine Justices was included in his response, which contained clarification of the ethical principles of the high court, while also addressing misconceptions. The statement explained the ways in which Justices address ethical concerns, including consulting past judicial opinions and treatises, reviewing scholarly articles and past disciplinary decisions, in addition to considering practices that were commonly employed in the history of the Court.
The statement also included that the Supreme Court does not have to abide by the 1922 Judicial Conference that was passed by Congress, yet they decided to voluntarily follow it in 1991 with the adoption of a resolution within the Court. At the end of the joint statement, the Justices addressed the safety concerns that have increased over the last year since Roe v. Wade was overturned. In a final sentence, it addresses disclosure of travel and accommodations, stating they “may at times have to take into account security guidance.”
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