Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: A written code of conduct for the Supreme Court is owed the people

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Angus King (I-Maine) introduced legislation requiring the Supreme Court of the United States to pen its own code of conduct. The Daily News-Miner editorial board read the news with interest. Our conclusion is that we support the need for the Supreme Court to publish a clear, significant and self-enforceable code of conduct on its own.

 We at the Daily News-Miner clearly see a cause for public concern with the Supreme Court’s moral compass given an associate justice’s acceptance of pricey gifts from an influential person without customary self-disclosure.

 Of late, investigative reports target senior Justice Clarence Thomas, who accepted gifts of travel and “hospitality” worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from a mega-donor to political causes. Now that the robed cat has been outed from its bag, how can the Supreme Court fail to see that self-policing is necessary to regain credibility?

 Yes, the Supreme Court must be the body to write a long-needed code of conduct. We appreciate that Congress is attempting to awaken the Supreme Court while stopping short of dictating that code for the justices. We have no doubt the revelations regarding Thomas’s travel and gifts from a wealthy donor undermines the very credibility of the presidentially appointed magistrates whose entire reason for being is to render dispassionate and precedent-setting judgments. Nonetheless, to reiterate, the separation of powers granted by the Constitution– written by our founders means that Congress itself must not write a code of ethics.

 Murkowski and King have offered a workable olive branch while still delivering a stern mandate. Now the Supreme Court must demonstrate that it sees a code of conduct is essential to ensure its justices always will act beyond reproach. Such a code of conduct preventing corruption now guides physicians, lawyers, and yes, journalists.

 Above all, things cannot remain as they once were in the hallowed chambers of the Supreme Court. Absent a law of the land in our democracy, we are a lawless nation. The Supreme Court must now make a supreme effort to regain the people’s trust.

By:  News-miner Staff
Source: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner