A Shameful Need

A Shameful Need
There are serious concerns about the ethical conduct of more than one justice on our Supreme Court. Can we do something about that? This image shows the building of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Jeff Kubina/The Commons

A  code of ethics for the judges of the Supreme Court of the United States should not be necessary, but obviously it is. Sooner rather than later. In fact, we don’t need a code to tell us there is rot in this ever-so-special court. The question is what we are going to do about it. The requirement of a code in lower courts has not eliminated corruption but gives us a weapon to fight it.

Of all the agencies of our government the one that we would hope was the purest is the Supreme Court. Actually, we would hope those serving were all pure but we have been disabused of that notion.

The designers of our government had such faith in the type of men selected—they had no idea of women ever serving—that they provided lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court. The idea was they would not be tempted to play to the perils of a slanted election campaign.

Oh! How disappointed our forefathers would be at the almost daily news we have been receiving of absolute conflicts of interest, pure corruption. It was shocking enough when it was only one member but it hasn’t stopped there. Nor were the gifts just little trinkets of friendship.

While there has been some serious suspicions of one who leaked proposed decisions before the actual announcement, we have truly been hit in the face as one extravagant gift after another was revealed to one member whose confirmation was fraught with charges of sexual harassment that few of us have forgotten. Added to that is his wife’s involvement with the insurrection of Jan. 6 that inevitably involves the court with this justice not recusing himself.

Speaking of sexual charges another now confirmed justice forcefully rejected charges that he had ever crossed any sexual boundaries despite rather creditable charges regarding his behavior. We might have been more forgiving had he simply admitted that he had done things in his youth that he would not find acceptable with maturity.

And now we find that a justice’s wife has been paid millions, notice plural, of dollars for recruiting lawyers for law firms that practice before the court regularly.

Shortly after his confirmation, another justice sold a piece of property at an inflated price after it had languished on the market for an inordinate time to a buyer whose motive might justify questioning considering his regular involvement with the court. A woman justice who in confirmation hearings truly downplayed her previous activities in anti-abortion causes has reinforced her history in her votes.

There are serious concerns about the ethical conduct of more than one justice on our Supreme Court. Can we do something about that? This image shows the building of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Jeff Kubina/The Commons

It is amazing that the judges of the highest court in the land are excused from a code of ethics demanded of all others. Granted, signing a code does not guarantee honesty but it is a start.

The Senate, which must confirm these people, is hardly to be excused from its responsibility. Unfortunately, we, the voters, put them there and all too often seem entirely too willing to overlook their sins. Without doubt, corruption is prevalent.

Nor can we excuse the appointing presidents who partake of the idea of extending their power far beyond their presidential terms and therefore name ideologues who put their advocacy before the law.

Currently, it would seem that our serving president is as ethical as anyone we have had serving in the office and yet polls show his favorability is below the immediate past president who has shown us time and again to be as unethical as they come. As this is written, we are getting some indication that this latter is meeting a modicum of  accountability. However, far too many are joining the corruption rather than ethics.

Whether as a member of a government body, a business or as an individual far too many seem to feel it is OK to indulge in enriching themselves regardless of the effect on others. Cheating on taxes or avoiding them altogether is almost a game. Huge corporations raking in money are known to legally pay no taxes due to successful lobbying. All of that is bad enough, and now it is the Supreme Court of this nation where there is ample evidence that corruption is rampant.

It has been said that all great empires come to an end sooner or later. Perhaps corruption in the quest for power and riches is the destroying agent. Are we too late? Can the people be convinced that there is a place for character?

Honesty, integrity, truth and ethics are all more than words. So is recuse as in judges removing themselves from participating in cases affecting them personally. It will take more than a code of ethics to get us back on track.

These are truly dark days when the highest court of the land cannot be trusted. We thought it was immune to the spoils of “power corrupts and absolute power corrupting absolutely.” Alas, it is not.

Our responsibility is to demand that those we elect to govern us meet the ideals of our U.S. Constitution. That document and personal ethics should be sufficient. Otherwise, the hope of the world must hang its head in shame.

Let us remind our public servants that it does no good to be in office unless you do the right thing.


  • Ruth Gadebusch

    Ruth Gadebusch, a former naval officer, was recently recognized by the League of Women Voters with its Lipton Award for volunteer work in various community endeavors. She was elected four times to the Fresno Unified School District Board, appointed by Governor George Deukmejian to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and is an emeritus member of the Board of the Center for Civic Education.

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