US House panel advances Supreme Court ethics bill | Top news

By Moira Warburton and Nate Raymond

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A panel of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday introduced a bill requiring the Supreme Court to adopt a code of ethics and strengthen rules allowing judges and other federal justices to recuse themselves from where they have conflicts of interest.

The 22-16 vote by the House Judiciary Committee sends the measure to the full House for consideration. This follows calls from Democrats, who hold the majority in the House, for conservative Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from cases involving the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 because text messages showed his wife encouraging attempts to cancel the 2020 elections.

In text messages sent days before the riot following the loss of former President Donald Trump that were reviewed in legal proceedings, Thomas’ wife, Republican activist Ginni Thomas, said repeatedly asked White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to work to overturn the election results.

The focus on Thomas has prompted Republicans to oppose the bill, the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act of 2022, despite past bipartisan interest in legislation similar to the following concerns about ethical issues with other judges.

Republican committee members alleged during the hearing that Democrats are using the legislation to intimidate Supreme Court justices, in light of the draft notice reversing federal abortion protections that was leaked last week. .

But Democrats said the legislation was needed to restore public confidence in one of the nation’s most important institutions.

“People are rightly shocked when they learn that not only is there no code of conduct for the Supreme Court, but the justices have strongly opposed the creation of such a code,” said Democratic Chairman Jerrold Nadler ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

The bill the committee has advanced calls on the Supreme Court to issue a code of conduct for its nine justices and would require justices and their attorneys to disclose all gifts, reimbursements and income they receive.

The bill also raises standards for judges and other federal judges to recuse themselves from cases when they have conflicts and creates new mechanisms for parties to seek disqualification.

Groups filing friends of the court briefs supporting or opposing an issue in court must also disclose the names of all persons who helped prepare the brief or funded the group.

Other laws aimed at reforming certain aspects of the judicial system are pending. Congress last month approved bipartisan legislation to subject federal judges, including justices, to stricter disclosure requirements for their financial holdings and stock trading.

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Washington and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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