Chief Justice John G. Roberts is studying whether to introduce a code of conduct applicable to the Supreme Court, which is exempt from a similar standard applied to the rest of the judiciary.
Justice Elena Kagan revealed that development for the first time on Thursday, noting that it’s being “very seriously” weighed although nothing has been discussed yet as a group.
Kagan was responding to questions from House lawmakers at a Supreme Court appropriations hearing that veered into the federal judiciary’s response to #MeToo-era sex harassment complaints within its ranks.
Joining her at the table was Justice Samuel Alito, who said “all of the justices” were aware of the problem of sex harassment in the workplace.
“If it were to come to our attention that there were any problems” within the Supreme Court building, “we would not sit back. We would take action that’s appropriate,” he said.
“We take our ethical responsibilities very seriously,” Alito said. “We are committed to behaving in an ethical manner and in a manner that appears to the public” to be fully ethical.
Rep. Norma Torres said arguments against applying a code for the justices are unconvincing.
“Women all over the world are finding their voices, and it cannot stop at the Supreme Court,” the California Democrat said.
Roberts chaired a working group that established new procedures last year for reporting sex harassment following allegations that effectively forced out Judge Alex Kozinski of the California-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
He’s said that the justices follow the ethics code for lower courts, but aren’t bound by it.
It was also noted at the hearing that a legislative proposal would apply the judicial code to the Supreme Court. But it’s prospects for passage aren’t certain.
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(Updated paragraphs 4 and 10 to include comments from Alito)