Supreme Court Justice John Roberts Refuses to Testify Before Congress

Supreme Court Justice John Roberts Refuses to Testify Before Congress
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts poses for an official portrait at the East Conference Room of the Supreme Court building in Washington on Oct. 7, 2022. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The U.S. Supreme Court’s chief justice has declined to testify to Congress on ethics issues.

Chief Justice John Roberts informed Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) of the refusal on April 25.

Durbin, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had urged Roberts to answer questions under oath at an upcoming public hearing.

The hearing will go over how justices are “falling short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges,” Durbin said. He added that testifying could help “strengthen faith in our public institutions.”

Roberts said in reply that he was declining the request.

Testimony before Congress by the Supreme Court’s chief justice “is exceedingly rare, as one might expect in light of separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence,” Roberts wrote in the letter, obtained by The Epoch Times.

According to the Supreme Court’s library, just two chief justices in history have testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in 1921 and 1935. Those hearings went over “routine matters” such as adding seats in federal courts, Roberts said.

Another chief justice testified before U.S. House of Representatives panels regarding a bill that would create a commemorative coin and how to improve the federal civil service system.

Durbin is among the Democrats who want to impose a code of conduct on the nation’s top court, pointing to concerns about justices’ relationships with major political donors. He has expressed concern with reporting that Justice Clarence Thomas accepted free vacations from a Republican donor; Thomas has denied wrongdoing.

Durbin said that a hearing in May would still happen without Roberts.

“I am surprised that the chief justice’s recounting of existing legal standards of ethics suggests current law is adequate and ignores the obvious,” Durbin said in a statement. “It is time for Congress to accept its responsibility to establish an enforceable code of ethics for the Supreme Court, the only agency of our government without it.”

Accompanying Roberts’ letter was a statement from all justices saying they make financial disclosures in line with the Judicial Conference Regulations. They said that due to increasing security concerns, they have to take into account guidance from law enforcement when making certain disclosures.

Graham, the ranking member of the panel, had said he would be surprised if Roberts agreed to testify. “And I would support his decision not to come,” Graham told The Epoch Times via email.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) was among those criticizing Roberts, writing in a statement: “The marble pillars of the supreme court and platitudes about its independence no longer provide refuge. He must face the nation.”

Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), meanwhile, announced this week that he is seeking information from Harlan Crow, the Republican donor, on gifts made to Thomas.

“The secrecy surrounding your dealings with Justice Thomas is simply unacceptable,” Wyden wrote to Crow. “The American public deserves a full accounting of the full extent of your largesse towards Justice Thomas, including whether these gifts complied with all relevant federal tax and ethics laws.”

From The Epoch Times

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