Since the seventeenth century, a fundamental axiom of Anglo-American law has been that ‘no man shall be a judge in his own case.’ In matters of judicial ethics, conflicts of interest, and compromise, however, each justice on the U.S. Supreme Court is just that. Unlike every other federal judge in the country, Supreme Court justices are bound by no code of ethics except, of course, their own values, sense of right and wrong, and personal integrity.
Chief Justice John Roberts assures a country, whose confidence and trust in the high court’s independence and fidelity to the Constitution is dwindling, that the Supreme Court is not compromised by political partisanship or conflicts of interest. The justices are so above the fray, they needn’t be told what to do or how to behave, and their responsibilities so monumental and above the rest of our paygrade, we needn’t worry ourselves over such petty concerns.
What does it say about his/her own values, sense of right and wrong, and personal integrity — not to mention common sense and judgment — when a justice engages in conduct in private which, if discovered or properly disclosed under federal law, would signal that justice’s independence is, or may be, compromised?
And the failure to disclose, regardless of whether it’s in violation of federal law, of itself, speaks volumes about the justice’s values, sense of right and wrong, and personal integrity, where s/he knows the conduct is suspect and, if discovered, may not withstand scrutiny. If there’s nothing wrong with it, why not disclose? If there is, why do it?
Leadership and example, one might think, should come from the top.
Thanks to ProPublica’s Clarence Thomas and the Billionaire, we now know the longest serving justice currently sitting on the high court failed to disclose millions he received over a couple of decades in luxury travel gifts from billionaire conservative donor Harlan Crow.
So what! Much ado about nothing! says John Yoo.