As the Senate considers legislation requiring the Supreme Court to adopt a code of ethics, Justice Samuel Alito recently insisted that lawmakers do not have “the authority to regulate the Supreme Court — period,” claiming that this is an issue he and his fellow justices “have all thought about.”
But when Alito and most of his colleagues were trying to secure their confirmations to the high court, they promised the Senate Judiciary Committee they would adhere to ethics laws from Congress that regulate justices’ acceptance and disclosure of gifts, limit their outside employment income, and mandate recusal in some circumstances.
If Alito or any of the other justices had argued during their confirmation processes that Congress can’t regulate the Supreme Court, or that justices are not obligated to obey ethics laws, they may not have been approved by the Senate.
Responding to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questionnaire in 2005, Alito wrote: “If confirmed, in matters involving recusal I would seek to follow the Code of Conduct for United States Judges (although it is not formally binding on justices of the Supreme Court of the United States), the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, 28 U.S.C. § 455, and any other relevant guidelines.”