The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a landmark bill that would implement a code of ethics for members of the Supreme Court. The vote was 11-10, along party lines. 

The bill was introduced following numerous reports of Supreme Court justices making questionable decisions away from the bench. 

Justice Clarence Thomas admitted that he went on lavish trips that were paid for by a wealthy Republican donor. ProPublica, which broke the story, reported that Thomas did not document the trips as gifts.

“I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable,” Thomas stated. 

Thomas wasn’t the only justice who faced questions about their conduct. The Associated Press reported that staff for Justice Sonia Sotomayor prodded schools where she was scheduled to be a guests lecturer to buy her books 

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In a statement, the Supreme Court said the court works with staff to make sure they are complying with judicial ethics guidance. 

“When (Sotomayor) is invited to participate in a book program, Chambers staff recommends the number of books (for an organization to order) based on the size of the audience so as not to disappoint attendees who may anticipate books being available at an event,” the Supreme Court said in a statement. 

Durbin invited Chief Justice John Roberts to testify at a hearing about judicial ethics, but he declined, citing the need to “preserve judicial independence.”

“Chief Justice Roberts failed to act on ethics reform before adjourning the Supreme Court for the summer. I said from the beginning: If the Court wont act, Congress will,” Durbin said, following passage of the bill. 

The Judicial Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act of 2023 lists various financial requirements justices would have to adhere to, and also lays out what type of gifts would be banned.

The bill still has a long way to go before becoming law. It would need at least 60 votes to get out of the Senate. It would also need to pass in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans, who have not been supportive of the bill. 

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