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Friday, December 8, 2023

Biden: ‘Just not the case’ that Constitution prohibits Supreme Court ethics code

President Biden in a new interview argued there is no constitutional reason the Supreme Court can’t have a code of ethics as justices prepare to start a new term.

“The idea that the Constitution would in any way prohibit or not encourage the court to have basic rules of ethics that are just on their face reasonable is just not the case,” Biden said in an interview with ProPublica published Sunday.

The president sat down with journalist John Harwood for a discussion about threats to democracy and democratic institutions, with the Supreme Court a main topic of conversation.

The Supreme Court’s lack of a code of ethics has been in the spotlight in the wake of reporting on two of the court’s conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

A series of ProPublica reports detailed undisclosed luxury trips, gifts and a real estate deal that Thomas accepted from Republican megadonor and real estate magnate Harlan Crow. Thomas has denied wrongdoing.

Justices will also consider whether they will hear a case involving the company of a hedge fund manager who reportedly flew Justice Samuel Alito to Alaska in 2008. There’s so far no indication Alito will step aside.

Alito has been among the justices who has blown off calls by Congress for ethics reform. But multiple justices across ideological lines expressed hope over the summer that the nine can soon reach an agreement of some sort.

Biden has been critical at times of the court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority and has made major rulings that, among other things, overturned the precedent set by Roe v. Wade and ended affirmative action in college admissions.

“I do think at the end of the day, this court, which has been one of the most extreme courts, I still think in the basic fundamentals of rule of law, that they would sustain the rule of law,” Biden told ProPublica.

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