Elena Kagan, Supreme Court Justice, said Thursday the Supreme Court is “not imperial,” appearing to distance itself from the view that Congress has nothing to do with setting ethics rules for judges.
Judge Samuel Alito told the Wall Street Journal last month that “no provision in the Constitution gives them the power to regulate the Supreme Court — period,” citing Congress. The comments came after several ethical controversies over his decision to accept lavish travel and private jet travel without disclosing it.
While Kagan stressed that her comments were not intended to refute Alito’s statements, she noted that Congress could take a number of actions against police judges, noting, for example, that Congress was responsible for funding the court.
“It just can’t be that the court is the only institution that is somehow not subject to anyone else’s control,” she said before a panel discussion at the 9th Circuit Courts Conference in Portland. according to Politico. “We are not imperial.”
While Kagan declined to elaborate in case she and the remaining eight judges eventually had to deal with a case assessing the limits of their conduct, she said she would support the court adopting a code of ethics for would introduce himself.
“We could decide to pass our own code of conduct that would either follow the standard codes of conduct or in certain cases decide not to follow … that would remove the question of what Congress can do,” she said.
However, she noted that not all members of the court agreed on the matter.
“We’re nine free-spirited individuals,” Kagan said.
That comes as a group of 10 Senate Democrats on Thursday called on Chief Justice John Roberts to ensure Alito backs out of cases involving Supreme Court regulation, citing his recent comments against oversight of judges.
Alito has come under criticism for writing an op-ed refuting a ProPublica report ahead of its publication. The ProPublica article detailed a luxury trip Alito took in 2008, which was arranged by a prominent conservative figure who was then chairman of the Federalist Society.
But Roberts has also resisted calls for more scrutiny for the court.
Although the Senate Judiciary Committee has already passed legislation establishing strict ethical standards for the Supreme Court, Republican opposition means the bill is unlikely to pass.
Alito isn’t the only judge coming under scrutiny for her behavior. ProPublica also revealed that Judge Clarence Thomas received lavish gifts and got involved in a real estate deal with Conservative donor Harlan Crow without disclosing it.
The Associated Press reported that Judge Sonia Sotomayor Staffers have pushed for the sale of her books during several college visits.