When he was invited to speak at the conservative Claremont Institute’s annual fundraising dinner Justice Samuel Alito properly insisted that the ticket price could not exceed the cost of the meal. But the Institute offered on its event web page another opportunity to donate: at the $10,000 level. Prof. Lubet asks if Justice Alito violated the Code of Judicial Conduct – which guides Supreme Court Justices only to the degree that the Justice deems appropriate. – gwc
by Prof. Steven Lubet (Northwestern University Law School)
***There has been considerable pressure on the Supreme Court to adopt its own code of conduct. Legislation to that effect has been repeatedly introduced in Congress, which would, in the words of one sponsor, require the court to announce “clear, written rules that establish standards by which justices’ behavior can be guided and assessed by both themselves and the American people.”
But no code—whether used only for guidance or accepted as binding—can substitute for a justice’s own vigilance. It is impossible to know how many $10,000 donors joined the Claremont Institute’s “Host Committee” for the purpose of honoring Justice Alito, but even one would be too many. The prohibition on fundraising is long-standing principle of judicial ethics, and it is important that it be respected in both word and deed.