Reggie Walton, Republican-appointed US judge in DC, demands code of ethics from Supreme Court

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A prominent Republican-appointed federal judge joined calls on Thursday for Supreme Court justices to be held to a code of ethics, saying the failure of justices to police their own misconduct diminishes respect for Americans for the judiciary.

U.S. Senior District Judge Reggie B. Walton of DC told attendees of a Chicago conference focused on threats to the independence of the courts that it was “unimaginable that we have a segment of our federal justice system that does not is not subject to a code of ethics”, Reuters reported.

Walton, appointed in 2001 by President George W. Bush, acknowledged that his comments could be considered “heresy”, but he feared that the inaction of the judges could be partly responsible for the Congressional legislation on the judiciary. which he believes could affect his independence, the press service says.

“We had judges who engaged in atrocious behavior, sexual assault, sexual intimidation and other misconduct,” Walton said, according to Reuters. “And often we haven’t been proactive in punishing them and penalizing them for what they’ve done.”

In an interview Friday, Walton acknowledged the remarks, saying, “Obviously when these things happen and judges aren’t held accountable, it affects respect for the judiciary.”

Walton, former presiding judge of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court appointed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., said Supreme Court justices should be subject to a code of conduct like all other federal judges and state.

“As a justice system – federal, state and otherwise – we are under surveillance and under attack. And I think some are trying to undermine our independence. And because of that, I think all judges should be held to a code of ethics,” Walton said in his interview.

Walton said he understood from Thursday’s conference, hosted by the National Judicial College, that the Supreme Court was considering such a code, “and I think that’s a good thing.”

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The Supreme Court did not respond to a request for comment.

A recording of the panel was not immediately available, conference officials said, and Walton said he did not speak from prepared remarks.

The conference came at a turbulent time for the judiciary, as President Biden signed legislation this month requiring greater disclosure of potential financial conflicts for judges, and the House Judiciary Committee presented a draft law obliging the Supreme Court to adopt a code of ethics.

In March, many legal ethicists expressed shock at revelations that Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, married to Judge Clarence Thomas, repeatedly texted White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to he is pursuing the cancellation of the 2020 presidential election as President Donald Trump simultaneously threatens to challenge the results in the Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, a deeply polarized Supreme Court vowed to launch an inquiry into the leaks after a draft opinion that would strike down abortion rights established in Roe vs. Wade sent shock waves through the national political landscape.

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Meanwhile, Supreme Court justices and others have resisted calls from lawyers and lawmakers for independent oversight on issues like anti-discrimination protections for the more than 30,000 justice system workers across the country. countries, who do not have the same rights as other government and private sector workers.

Since Judge Alex Kozinski of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in California retired in 2017 amid allegations of workplace sexual misconduct, federal justice leaders, including the Chief Justice, have sought to encourage reporting and remove barriers to accountability for justice officials. gender discrimination, bullying and racial insensitivity in the workplace. But they admitted that there is still a lot to do.

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Walton said he was not thinking of the Thomases at all in his remarks and that the incidents of misconduct he was referring to involved lower court judges at the federal and state levels, not the Supreme Court.

Instead, he said he described a justice system “under attack” as a speaker on a conference panel titled “Democracy and the Courts”, which focused on the forces trying to politicize the courts and reduce their independence, including actions taken by legislators or the executive of the state. branch members from cutting judicial budgets or intimidating, impeaching, or retaliating against judges for decisions they disliked.

Walton said, “I made these comments because I felt they were appropriate for the courts to ward off any attempt to undermine our independence or the credibility of our institutions.”

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