From the Left



Supreme Court Ethics? More Than ‘Balls and Strikes’

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Is the Supreme Court ready for reform yet?

That’s my updated version of the immortal declaration that legendary alderman and saloonkeeper Mathias “Paddy” Bauler reportedly delivered on the night of Richard J. Daley’s first election as Chicago’s mayor in 1955: “Chicago ain’t ready for reform yet.”

I asked myself the same question of the Supreme Court when I heard Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, call for the justices to adopt a potentially mighty reform that they traditionally have opposed: a code of ethics.

All other federal judges have one. So do many of us in the private sector. Why, asks Durbin, not the nation’s highest court?

A long time proponent of such a code, Durbin ramped up scrutiny of the nation’s highest court after ProPublica reported a big freebie enjoyed by Justice Samuel Alito. He reportedly went on a free luxury fishing trip with hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer in 2008 without disclosing the flight on disclosure forms — or recusing himself from at least 10 cases that the businessman later had in front of the court.

That’s about as helpful to public trust as Bauler’s celebration.


But Alito, in an unusual display of proactive public relations, preempted the ProPublica report with an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal hours before its release, insisting that “I had no obligation to release in any of the cases that ProPublica cites.”

Thomas, too, insisted that he followed the rules regarding social occasions as he had been instructed at the time.

Tell it to the judge, I say. But, of course, since the justices serve on the highest court in the land, they largely would be pleading to themselves.

The Alito revelation followed earlier ProPublica reports that Justice Clarence Thomas had received, among other favors, luxury travel and resort stays from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow.


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