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The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

U.S. Supreme Court adopts first ever code of conduct

U.S.+Supreme+Court+adopts+first+ever+code+of+conduct

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a Code of Conduct to govern themselves on Nov. 13. This is the first Code of Ethics ever implemented on the high court after its justices fell under scrutiny for accepting and not disclosing gifts and funded vacations from wealthy benefactors. 

Federal judges and lower courts have been governed by a Code of Ethics since 1973. This code was written by the United States Courts and “provides guidance on their performance of official duties and engagement in a variety of outside activities.” The code is enforced on the “United States circuit judges, district judges, Court of International Trade judges, Court of Federal Claims judges, bankruptcy judges, and magistrate judges.” In this code, Canon 4H(3) enforces them to disclose “gifts and other things of value” through financial reports. 

The Supreme Court Justices are required to fill out annual financial disclosure reports as well, which ask them to list gifts they have received. However, since the high court was not subjected to a code of conduct until now, they could make their own rules on what to disclose and what not to disclose. This new code of conduct will make Supreme Court justices “file the same annual financial disclosure reports as other federal judges,” which will disclose the justice’s “nongovernmental income, investments, gifts, and reimbursements from third parties”.

The first ever code of ethics issued specifically for governing the U.S. Supreme Court came  after Justice Clarence Thomas did not disclose annual holiday vacations received by Texas Republican activist Harlan Crow. Justice Thomas also did not disclose that Crow had funded the private schooling of a relative who lived in the Justice’s household or that Crow had purchased a house where the Justice’s mother lived. 

Other justices have fallen under scrutiny as well. Justice Sonia Sotomayer used taxpayer-funded court employees to prod colleges and libraries to purchase her books, which has gained her $3.7 million since she joined the court in 2009. Justice Samuel Alito did not disclose an Alaskan fishing trip funded by Republican activists back in 2008. 

A statement issued by the Supreme Court Justices regarding the new code said that the absence of a code “has led in recent years to a misunderstanding that the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules. To dispel this misunderstanding, we are issuing a code of conduct.” 

To learn more about the new Code of Conduct, visit supremecourt.gov/about/Code-of-Conduct-for-Justices_November_13_2023.pdf.

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Noah Willoughby, Staff Writer
Noah (he/him) is a Communications major at UTSA. Noah was born in San Antonio and has been here all of his life. He has spent a large portion of that life working with people who have disabilities throughout various jobs, but decided to come back to college to find a new path. He enjoys reading and writing and hopes to do the latter as a full-time gig.

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