Legislation requiring the U.S. Supreme Court to develop its own code of conduct advanced in the House on Wednesday night.
The measure approved by the Democratic-led Judiciary Committee 22-16 over fierce Republican objection proposes disclosure rules covering travel, gifts, and income received by the justices.
It also seeks new transparency around those filing amicus, or friend-of-the-court briefs, across the judiciary and deepens recusal rules for justices and lower court judges.
“We expect the justices of our nation’s highest court to hold themselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct, but, in fact, their conduct too often falls below the standards that most other government officials are required to follow,” said Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
The conduct bill is one of several measures intended to make the judiciary’s work more transparent and address perceived political influence on the current high court.
Chief Justice John Roberts has resisted congressional efforts to impose ethics requirements, saying the Supreme Court is best positioned to police itself.
Similar conduct legislation has been proposed in the Senate.
Republicans criticized the House measure as partisan bullying driven by progressive scorn for the court’s conservative majority, especially over its expected decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion rights.
The legislation is “about what’s happening at the court right now,” said Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) noting that Democrats want to “usurp judicial independence” and “intimidate” the conservative majority on abortion and other points of the “radical progressive agenda.”
The proposal would permit the Supreme Court and the U.S. Judicial Conference, which oversees lower court policy, to modify aspects of their respective plans after public comment. The bill gives both entities six months after enactment to act.
The Supreme Court code would apply to employees as well as justices, and changes to lower court ethics rules also would affect bankruptcy and international trade courts.
—With assistance from Madison Alder