Chief Justice John Roberts will not testify before Congress about Supreme Court ethics

CNN Newsource Pristine Villarreal

(CNN) — Chief Justice John Roberts has notified Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin that he won’t testify at an upcoming hearing on Supreme Court ethics.

“I must respectfully decline your invitation,” Roberts wrote in a letter to Durbin, which was released by a spokesperson for the high court Tuesday.

“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.

Without addressing Durbin’s specific concerns over ethics Roberts simply attached a Statement of Ethics Principles and Practices to which he said, “All of the current Members of the Supreme Court subscribe.”

CNN has reached out to the court for comment.

The Illinois Democrat had asked Roberts, in a letter, to voluntarily testify in a hearing on Supreme Court ethics set to take place May 2. The request came in the wake of a ProPublica report that found that Justice Clarence Thomas had gone on several luxury trips at the invitation of a GOP megadonor. The trips were not disclosed on Thomas’ public financial filings.

Thomas said in a statement that he had not reported the trips because the ethics guidelines in effect at the time had not required such disclosures.

It was widely expected that Roberts would decline Durbin’s invitation to appear before a separate branch of government to discuss ethics reform.

Durbin responded to the refusal in a statement Tuesday.

“Make no mistake: Supreme Court ethics reform must happen whether the Court participates in the process or not,” Durbin said in the statement.

He also noted that he was surprised that the chief justice had amended his letter with a statement meant to provide “clarity” to the public about how the justices consider ethics issues.

Durbin dismissed the statement as a “recounting of existing legal standards of ethics” and said that Roberts’ suggestion that current law is adequate “ignores the obvious.”

“It is time for Congress to accept its responsibility to establish an enforceable code of ethics for the Supreme Court, the only agency of our government without it,” Durbin said.

Last weekend, Durbin released a separate statement noting that Roberts had declined to directly respond to a letter from Durbin asking the chief justice to investigate Thomas’ filings. Durbin noted that Roberts had referred the letter to the Judicial Conference which serves as the policy-making body of the federal courts.

Durbin’s statement included a letter from Judge Roslynn Mauskopf, the secretary of the Judicial Conference, that said, “I write in response to the letter of April 10, 2023, from you and other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Chief Justice of the United States, which has been referred to me.”

Mauskopf added that she would send the matter to the conference’s Committee on Financial Disclosure.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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