Justice Elena Kagan says she thinks Supreme Court code of ethics rules a 'good' idea

September 24, 2023

Liberal Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan said in remarks at the University of Notre Dame Law School that she thinks it would be a "good thing" for the nation's highest court to have a code of ethics similar to ones lower courts have but added that they should be adapted to the different needs of the Supreme Court.

Kagan didn't mention Justice Clarence Thomas by name, but news reporting that he accepted gifts from at least one billionaire friend over a number of years has prompted discussion of a Supreme Court code of ethics, and Congress has introduced a bill to that effect.

"There has been some concern, and I think it's legitimate concern, that the Supreme Court is an unusual kind of court in certain respects and that some of the rules do not fit quite as well at the Supreme Court level as they do at the level of lower courts," she said, adding, "But of course what we could do is just adapt the code of conduct that the other court systems have in order to reflect those slight or certain differences."

“And I think it would be a good thing for the court to do that,” she continued. “It would help in our own compliance with the rules, and it would, I think, go far in persuading other people that we were adhering to the highest standards of conduct.”

Thomas admitted that he did accept the gifts, primarily expensive luxury vacations and travel on private jets, mostly from billionaire real estate mogul and family friend Harlan Crow.

He also said that he raised the issue of disclosing the gifts with other justices when they first began and was told he didn't have to disclose them publicly. Obviously, he was trying to avoid doing anything unethical and not trying to get away with something he shouldn't.

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