Roberts sidesteps Supreme Court’s ethics controversies in yearly report

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts offered only a brief reference to the court’s recent ethics controversies in his annual year-end report released Sunday, sidestepping the issue while calling attention to the “animating spirit of the rule of law.” Roberts led the court in December after being grilled over the ethics of three of its justices, including Clarence Thomas, who was accused of attending a Koch brothers-sponsored political event without disclosing it in his financial disclosures.

In saying “the American people rightly expect the President, legislators, and judges to adhere to the highest standards of conduct,” Roberts did not mention the scandals, instead focusing on the timeliness of proceedings in the court to instill public trust in the institution.

He added that questions of ethics “cannot be addressed through judicial opinions,” indicating he would leave that to the public or Congress.

The chief justice went on to praise the court’s decisions in the 2018-19 term, noting the “importance of protecting both the well-established rights of minorities and individuals as well as the interests of the majority that are necessary in a well-functioning democracy.”

The report does note that the court will be looking into ways to safeguard ethics in the future, stating, “We will continue to look for ways to improve our efforts to ensure the public’s confidence in the Court as an institution.” However, ultimately, Roberts said it was the responsibility of both the public and elected leaders to ensure the integrity and impartiality of the court.

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