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Senate Democrats Rethinking Code Of Ethics For Supreme Court Justices Following Alito’s Trip With Billionaire

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has sparked more questions about whether or not the Supreme Court should be held to a higher standard of ethics after he published an op-ed column defending a luxury fishing trip that he took with hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer in 2008.

ProPublica, a non-profit organization, recently launched an investigation into Alito and Singer’s apparent friendship. In July 2008, Alito took a $100,000 jet ride, courtesy of Singer, to a fishing lodge in Alaska that charged upwards of $1,000 per day.

Singer has appeared before the Supreme Court a number of times, and Alito ruled in favor of the billionaire in a dispute between his hedge fund and the nation of Argentina, resulting in Singer walking out with a $2.4 billion payday. This case was brought before the court following the 2008 fishing trip.

Alito failed to report the trip on his annual financial disclosure, which each Supreme Court Justice is required to fill out each year and documents any gifts or compensations that were given to the Justices.

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In response to ProPublica’s request to question Alito, he turned to the Wall Street Journal and published an op-ed column to defend his alleged wrongdoings

“It was and is my judgment that these facts would not cause a reasonable and unbiased person to doubt my ability t decide the matters in question impartially,” wrote Alito in response to arguments that he should have recused himself from Singer’s case.

ProPublica’s investigation has forced Senate Democrats to reconsider the of having a formal code of ethics that guides the Supreme Court of the United States. Officials from both parties have voiced the desire to implement new rules for the Justices to comply with.

“The highest court in the land should not have the lowest ethical standards,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) in a joint statement with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island). “But for too long that has been the case with the United States Supreme Court. That needs to change.”

Multiple senators have proposed ideas for ethical reform. Whitehouse has pushed legislation that would require the court to adopt a code of conduct that establishes clear rules dictating when justices must recuse themselves from cases. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced a measure that would require the Supreme Court to appoint an official to examine potential conflicts and public complaints in regard to each case.

Despite calls for immediate action, it is unclear which bills will get a vote in the near future.

Ava Lombardi

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