Once again, the Supreme Court is finding its ethics under scrutiny. In November, Justice Clarence Thomas declined to recuse himself in a case involving the plot to overturn Arizona’s 2020 presidential vote, despite his wife’s efforts to pressure state lawmakers to set aside Joe Biden’s victory there. Then the New York Times reported on allegations that a decision in a 2014 case involving contraception and religious rights leaked to a high-profile abortion foe—a troubling precursor, if true, to the breach that occurred this spring when a draft opinion of its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade became public.
Unlike other federal judges, the justices on the Supreme Court are subject to no code of conduct. It is time for the court, led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., to set ethics standards for itself that are transparent, consistent and actually work. At stake is no less than its legitimacy, which has been battered by growing public doubts that it truly operates as an apolitical arbiter of the law.
The Post reported in June that Justice Thomas’s wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, urged at least 29 Arizona lawmakers to overturn the popular vote in their state following the 2020 presidential election, asking legislators in one email to “fight back against fraud’’ and “ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen.’’ Despite his wife’s efforts to upend the election result, Justice Thomas failed to recuse himself earlier this year from a case involving the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by Trump supporters who were seeking to achieve the same end. The panel, which she had called an “overtly partisan political persecution,” subsequently interviewed Ms. Thomas about her post-election 2020 activities.