Justice Brett Kavanaugh said on Thursday that he was “hopeful” that the Supreme Court would take “concrete steps” to move forward to address ethics issues at the high court.
Speaking at a judicial conference in Ohio, Kavanaugh referred to Chief Justice John Roberts’s comments from May, when he said the justices were committed to addressing ethical concerns as a group, as public confidence remained at record lows.
“The chief justice spoke about that in May and said that we are continuing to work on those issues, and that is accurate. We are continuing to work on those issues, and I’m hopeful that there will be some concrete steps taken soon on that,” Kavanaugh said at the conference, according to multiple reports, in response to a question on “perceived ethical issues.”
“We’re nine public servants that are hard-working and care a lot about the court and care a lot about the judiciary as a whole,” Kavanaugh said of the justices. “We respect the institution and want that respect for the institution to be shared by the American people.”
“To the extent that we can increase confidence, we’re working on that,” he added, according to multiple reports.
In July, Kavanaugh addressed the same issue at a judicial conference in Minnesota but, at the time, refrained from elaborating on issues related to ethics. He mentioned Roberts’s comments from May and described them as “accurate,” adding, in his remarks in July, “I’m not going to add anything to what the chief justice has said on that topic.”
The high court has come under increased scrutiny in recent months as revelations surfaced, including claims of undisclosed luxury trips that Justice Clarence Thomas accepted from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow. Other justices have also come under scrutiny for alleged ethical issues.
In the wake of these and other concerns, some lawmakers have called on the justices to adopt a binding code of ethical conduct, similar to what’s in place for other federal judges, but some justices have pushed back on the claim that Congress has the right to compel the Supreme Court to adopt a binding ethical code.
The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced legislation this summer tightening ethics rules for justices, who, under the bill, would be required to adhere to the same disclosure rules that members of Congress observe. The bill, which would also create an ethics code for the court, is unlikely to succeed, given Republican resistance to the measure.
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