Photograph of the Supreme Court building.

Heretic on the Hill: The Supreme Court Needs Some Sunshine

I was pleased to see this article in The New Republic this week because the title is “Sorry Clarence Thomas but Supreme Court Ethics Reform Is on the Table.” I’m pleased because that is exactly the issue we will be advocating for on Capitol Hill at SCA’s Lobby Day on Friday. We have SCA supporters flying in to ask their representatives to support the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act (SCERT).  (Spoiler: at the bottom of the page you can too.)

In January the restrictions from the pandemic and from the aftermath of January 6 were finally eliminated and walking into the Capitol and the surrounding office buildings for an in-person meeting became simple again.  Bringing in a group to fan out and meet with their representatives all in one day became much more doable, so we’re doing it Friday. Tomorrow is the last day to register, which you can do here.

The Supreme Court has become the biggest obstacle to the separation of church and state. Recent decisions allow taxpayer money to support religious schools and religious instruction, and allow a football coach (meaning  a school employee) to pray publicly with students joining in. A current case involves an employee who doesn’t want to work on Sundays because of his religious beliefs, and that decision will probably affect what employers can require of religious employees (leaving the nonreligious to work on Sundays, for one thing).

SCERT would require the Supreme Court to establish a code of ethics just as the lower courts have had for decades. It would set up a process for recommending when a Justice should recuse themselves from a case because of a conflict of interest. Currently that is just left up to the Justices themselves to decide.

The bill would also increase the level of transparency so that Justices have to disclose the same information about gifts, travel, and other financial matters that members of Congress do. Some Justices travel a lot to give speeches on other people’s dime. They would also have to disclose when an outside party that supported their nomination to the Supreme Court files an amicus brief with the Court.

These changes won’t change the roster on the Supreme Court but they will make it public knowledge when a judge should recuse themselves and what outside groups they associate with. These are changes that should have been made years ago. You can weigh in by sending our Action Alert on SCERT. Doing it this week would help build momentum for us when we meet with representatives on Friday. Please take a minute to help us out.

Maybe I’m just easily amused, but Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) introduced a bill this week, S.751, to “prohibit [the creation of] certain types of human-animal chimeras.” This means it would be illegal to create a centaur, and my idea for an army of gorilla super-soldiers is on hold. The fine for violating this law would start at one million dollars. The new bill isn’t available online yet so I’m linking to the same bill Senator Braun introduced last year, which did get the official support of 24 short-sighted House Members and five Senators.


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