(Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said on Tuesday the court is considering measures to “adhere to the highest standards of conduct” after reports on travel and real estate deals by a conservative judge drew congressional scrutiny.
Roberts, speaking at an event hosted by the American Law Institute, said he is “committed” to ensuring that the nine members of the court meet those standards. He did not give details about what those measures would look like.
But the chief justice also said he is wary of possible legislation from Congress that could impose a code of ethics for judges.
Roberts said he is “confident there are ways” to ensure court members meet their ethical obligations “that are consistent with our status as an independent branch of government under the Constitution’s separation of powers.”
It was the first time Roberts had commented publicly since a US Senate committee hearing earlier this month on a possible code of ethics for the high court. The United States Supreme Court is the only federal court in the United States that does not have a formal code of ethics.
Roberts declined to attend the Senate hearing on Supreme Court ethics issues, but sent the committee five pages of information on current judicial ethics standards.
While Senate Democrats on the panel have backed possible ethics legislation, Republican members have strongly opposed it.
News outlet ProPublica has detailed links between Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative who is the court’s longest-serving member, and wealthy Republican donor Harlan Crow.
Crow’s lawyers this week rejected an offer by Senate Democrats to learn of other gifts the Dallas billionaire gave Thomas. They argued that Congress lacks the authority to impose a code of ethics on judges.
(Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen in Washington; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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