ABA urges Supreme Court to adopt code of ethics

The American Bar Association is calling upon the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt a code of ethics.

A statement urging to the court to take such action was issued Monday, less than a week after ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross called upon the court to adopt a code of ethics.

The actions come on the heels of a series of media reports detailing questionable actions by U.S. Supreme Court justices.

In February, the ABA House of Delegates passed a policy at its Midyear Meeting in New Orleans urging the court to develop and implement such a code.

The ABA policy does not address any other group developing or implementing an ethics code.

The ABA statement reads:

The American Bar Association recognizes the need for the Supreme Court to adopt a binding code of judicial ethics and urges the justices to act now.

While an independent judiciary is the cornerstone of the rule of law, public support for that independence relies on public confidence in the legitimacy of the courts People just believe judges act ethically according to standards firmly grounded in integrity and impartiality.

In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released in April, just 37 % of respondents said they have a great deal or good amount of confidence in the court, while 62 % said the opposite. And a 2022 Gallup poll found that only 40 percent of respondents approved of the job the Supreme Court was doing, the lower since polling began in 2001.

The Supreme Court exercises appellate authority over all federal courts. The absence of a clearly articulated, binding code of ethics for the justices of the Supreme Court imperils public confidence in our courts, which in turn undermines the legitimacy of the American judicial system. The NPR survey revealed a steep decline over the past year in the percentage of
Americans who express “a great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the entire judicial branch of the federal government, from 67% in 2020 to 54% today.

Other federally appointed judges are bound to a code of ethics that includes enforcement mechanism. Justices of the United States Supreme Court are not.

As our democratic institutions and the rule of law are under attack, we need our courts to be trusted.

The Supreme Court must act and develop its own binding code of conduct.