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Bringing ethics reform to the Court's front door

Nan Aron with Congresswomen Eleanor Holmes Norton and Louise Slaughter

Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron yesterday joined members of Congress, several concerned organizations, 212 law professors, and over 100,000 citizens in calling for the Supreme Courtto voluntarily agree to formally adopt the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges and put an end to the ethical ambiguity that has damaged public confidence in the Court and its justices.

Speaking at a press conference on the steps of the Supreme Court along with Congresswomen Louise Slaughter and Eleanor Holmes Norton and Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Aron called for immediate ethics reform, saying, "It's no secret that this is going to be a landmark year for the Supreme Court. There will be big cases and intense public scrutiny. If there ever was a time for the Court to buttress public confidence in its propriety and objectivity, this is it. With so much at stake, there must be no hint of favoritism or bias. We can't afford to have any questions of integrity looming over the justices."

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported:
Joined by Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, [Rep. Louise] Slaughter said 31 members of Congress have signed a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts urging the court to formally adopt a judicial code of ethics...

Similar letters have been sent by government watchdog groups and more than 200 law professors.

The letters were prompted by reports over the last three years that Supreme Court justices have spoken at fundraisers for advocacy groups such as the Federalist Society, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the National Association of Broadcasters.

With controversial cases pending this year involving affirmative action and the constitutionality of the 2010 health care reform law, "there should not even be a hint of bias or favoritism’’ on the court, Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, said.
In addition, Professor William Yeomans of the Washington School of Law at American University, unveiled a letter signed by 212 law professors asking the Supreme Court itself to initiate the process of formally adopting the Code of Conduct. A copy of the letter can be downloaded here.

Following the press event, Alliance for Justice co-hosted a briefing for Congressional staffers. The briefing featured an all-star panel consisting of Yeomans, Dahlia Lithwick of Slate, and Sherrilyn Ifill of the University of Maryland.

Many of the issues raised in the press conference and the staff briefing are addressed in AFJ's short documentary film, A Question of Integrity: Politics, Ethics, and the Supreme Court. You can watch the entire film online at YouTube now.

Click here for a gallery of photos from the day's events.