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Lawmakers push justices to adopt formal recusal rules

Despite assurances from Chief Justice John Roberts that such a move was unnecessary and unwise, a group of lawmakers is pushing the Supreme Court to drop its current self-policing policy for recusals and formally adopt the same judicial code of ethics that binds other federal judges.

“Because the Supreme Court does not adhere to the code of conduct for (other) United States judges, they have granted themselves immunity from the standards of behavior that apply to every other justice in the land,’’ Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said Tuesday during a press conference in front of the Court, according to the Democrat and Chronicle.

Slaughter is one of 31 lawmakers who sent a letter to the Court this week demanding that it adopt the Judicial Conference’s Code of Conduct. In his year-end report on the state of the judiciary, Roberts pushed back at the growing number of critics who questioned the way the justices decide whether or not to participate in a case, saying that the justices do consult the Code as well as other sources of ethical guidance. That the process works, he said.

“I have complete confidence in the capability of my colleagues to determine when recusal is warranted,” Roberts wrote.

Still critics have assailed, among other things, the decisions of Justice Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan to participate in the case challenging the constitutionality of the health care law. The 31 democratic lawmakers who signed the letter to the Court also cited the close ties between Justices Antonin Scalia and Thomas to big conservative campaign donors.


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