OPINION: Legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court in question

Inequality Media

The Supreme Court is facing a serious legitimacy crisis, tossing aside decades of precedent to rewrite the rules of our democracy, give corporations more power over workers and consumers, and turn back the clock on basic rights.

But troubling new revelations about ethics violations at the Supreme Court have raised even more fundamental questions about the integrity of the court.

First, a blockbuster story in The New York Times revealed how a nonprofit organization affiliated with the court called the Supreme Court Historical Society has been raking in millions from corporations like Chevron and Goldman Sachs as well as anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ lobbyists.

Now, the Times reports that Chief Justice John Roberts’s wife has been paid millions of dollars as a recruiter for corporate law firms with cases pending before the court.

Enough is enough. We need Supreme Court reform now, starting with a binding code of ethics, regular financial disclosures posted online, and a requirement that justices recuse themselves when there’s a conflict of interest.

Currently, federal judges sign on to some form of code of conduct — except for Supreme Court justices. These standards emphasize independence, integrity, and the avoidance of outside political activity. The Supreme Court should adopt the same standards.

The court should also institute a better system to recuse justices when conflicts of interest arise.

In addition, justices should be required to regularly disclose certain financial information online, including their stock holdings. Currently, justices are not required to submit the same financial information as other government officials or members of Congress. The public should know whether members of the court have a financial stake in the cases before them.

The Supreme Court is one of America’s most important institutions, providing a non-partisan check on the other branches of government and upholding the rule of law.

So, if the court won’t adopt these reforms voluntarily, Congress should pass legislation requiring it.

Unfortunately, the corporate media routinely downplays these ethics scandals and dismisses any talk of Supreme Court reform as some kind of fringe-left idea. That’s why it’s up to Inequality Media to help fill these gaps by informing the public and demanding action.

(Inequality Media is a nonpartisan digital media company whose mission is inform and engage the public about inequality and imbalance of power in America. They produce compelling original videos, sharing content through social and traditional media reaching almost 14 million weekly viewers. Founders are former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and Emmy-award-winning filmmaker Jacob Kornbluth. They can be reached at inequalitymedia.org.)

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