December 3, 2023

This U.S. Supreme Court seems to have a penchant for trying to make history. This time, it’s for the court’s release of its first-ever code of conduct.

While the fact that the justices have codified their conduct is perhaps newsworthy, the contents aren’t. All 15 pages are best summarized as follows: Behave like a decent human being in private and in public.

Most of the rules seem fairly self-evident. For instance, justices are supposed to have a reasonably detailed knowledge of their personal finances and those of their minor children and spouse (a rule that President Joe Biden should consider adopting). Justices are also supposed to obey U.S. law, refuse bribes, and refrain from using or leveraging influence.

But why, after 234 years, did the U.S. Supreme Court decide that it was time to codify a code of conduct? Democrats have spent the last year honing their attack on certain conservative members of the court. Earlier this year ProPublica reported that Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito had abided by court guidance and had not reported vacations and private flights funded by prominent GOP businessmen.

Now left-wing news organizations who are convinced that Thomas and Alito are being bought by the Republican party are surprised that the justices not only signed the code of ethics but did so without noting any opposition whatsoever — Politico called it “a somewhat surprising development.”

The purpose of the code of ethics is to more narrowly define what constitutes an ethical violation for the left-wing media eager to accuse conservative justices of committing one. It’s not that the justices needed to come up with new rules; they were simply reaffirming old ones.

But code of conduct or not, Democrats still aren’t appeased. “If the nine are going to release an ethics code with no enforcement mechanism and remain the only police of the nine, then how can the public trust they’re going to do anything more than simply cover for one another, ethics be damned?” Gabe Roth, executive director of ethics at Fix the Court, said.

One wonders what would happen if a similar code of conduct were applied to the White House, the Senate, or the House of Representatives. One suspects that Roth and his fellow Democrats might balk at the suggestion.