Supreme Court Justice Forced To Testify?

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( – Chief Justice John Roberts declined an invitation to testify before the Senate in regard to the Supreme Court’s ethical standards.

In his letter responding to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) request, Roberts started off by writing that “I must respectfully decline your invitation.” He further added that a sitting chief justice has only provided testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on two separate occasions in the past 102 years. As he points out, there is an “exceedingly rare” occurrence which is important “in light of separation of powers concerns” and the preservation of judicial independence.

The two occasions that Roberts is referring to occurred in 1921 and 1935 when Chief Justice William Howard Taft and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes testified before the panel on “routine matters of judicial administration.”

Roberts proceeded to also attack to the letter a “Statement of Ethics Principles and Practices,” to which all members of the court must subscribe. Durbin and other Democrats on the committee invited Roberts to testify during a May 2 hearing on Supreme Court ethics reform.

In the letter sent to Roberts last week, Durbin pointed out that Supreme Court justices had previously appeared before the Judiciary panel in October 2011 for a discussion relating to ethics matters. He added that it was time for a “new public conversation on ways to restore confidence in the Court’s ethical standards.”

The concerns about the court’s ethics standards have come to the forefront following the reports by ProPublica about conservative Justice Clarence Thomas’s failure to disclose in his financial disclosures the luxury travel, hospitality, and other gifts he received from Texas billionaire Harlan Crow in the past two decades.

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