During a recent gathering of the federal entity known as the Judicial Conference, which helps sets standards for the U.S. court system, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) pressured U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, the Chief Justice on that court, over some of the recent ethical questions that have faced Justices.
Multiple members of the court, including Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, have faced allegations in media reports of having accepted a startling array of luxury accommodations without disclosing all such relationships, despite the impacts the provisions could have on the judges’ all-important decisions. And at least in part, those directly involved have proven themselves to be harshly antagonistic to the idea of Congressional regulation. Alito said in a now infamous interview that he didn’t believe members of Congress possessed basic powers for regulating the Supreme Court — an idea quickly condemned by others in legal circles.
“Durbin, who sat next to Roberts, focused his remarks on the need for an enforceable code of conduct for the justices and expressed his disappointment in seeing the Supreme Court enmeshed in an ethical crisis of its own doing,” Newsweek said of the recent Judicial Conference gathering that involved both Durbin and the top Supreme Court Justice. Durbin is currently the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has previously asked Roberts for testimony on some of these underlying issues, which the Republican-nominated judge refused.
Roberts also recently faced pressure from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) after Alito’s controversial interview. Whitehouse sent Roberts what the Senator styled as an ethics complaint, arguing that Alito may have significantly overstepped the boundaries ordinarily understood to define acceptable conduct for Supreme Court Justices. “On the Senate Judiciary Committee, we have heard in every recent confirmation hearing that it would be improper to express opinions on matters that might come before the Court,” the Democratic Senator summarized. “In this instance, Justice Alito expressed an opinion on a matter that could well come before the Court.”