Calling Balls and Strikes: Ethics and Supreme Court Justices

Source: Cynthia Brown, Congressional Research Service, CRS Legal Sidebar, LSB10189, August 20, 2018

At his confirmation hearing in 2005, Chief Justice Roberts famously described his view of judges as umpires, pledging that, if confirmed, he would “call balls and strikes” when applying the law. Chief Justice Roberts emphasized the constitutional structure that underpins the Supreme Court and the rest of the federal judiciary, which is based on independence from political influence. The Court’s independence and its insulation from political influence is a perennial issue, which has received heightened attention with Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s pending nomination. What mechanisms ensure the integrity of Justices as federal officials? Are Justices subject to any rules of ethical conduct? How might such ethics rules be enforced? This Sidebar examines these questions and Congress’s potential role in regulating the ethics of the Supreme Court Justices…..