Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, declined to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Democrats on the committee called Roberts to testify after ProPublica uncovered a number of potential ethics violations by Justice Clarence Thomas.

Roberts declined the invitation to speak to the committee, noting that Chief Justices rarely visit the Senate. He said the judicial and legislative branches of government should keep their distance to maintain the balance of power.

“Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by the Chief Justice of the United States is exceedingly rare, as one might expect in light of separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence,” Roberts wrote in response to the request.

He referenced that only two Chief Justices testified before the committee: Chief Justice Taft in 1921 and Chief Justice Hughes in 1935.


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Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) invited Roberts to testify after the ProPublica investigation, saying “the time has come for a new public conversation on ways to restore confidence in the Court’s ethical standards.”

The investigation by ProPublica alleges that Thomas accepted trips and other benefits from real estate developer Harlan Crow – some trips onto the Crow’s private yacht allegedly cost over $500,000. Further reporting revealed that Crow bought the home of Thomas’s mother.

Durbin recently said that the report proved that the Senate needed to reevaluate ethical codes in the Supreme Court.

“The highest court in the land shouldn’t have the lowest ethical standards,” Durbin said. “Today’s Pro Publica report reveals that Justice Thomas has for years accepted luxury travel on private yachts and jets and a litany of other gifts that he failed to disclose. This behavior is simply inconsistent with the ethical standards the American people expect of any public servant, let alone a Justice on the Supreme Court.

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