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Senate Judiciary invites chief justice to testify on ethics

(NewsNation) — The Senate Judiciary Committee is calling on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to testify on ethics rules for the Court.

The request comes after revelations from ProPublica that Justice Clarence Thomas has close ties to a billionaire Republican donor. Thomas received luxurious vacations from the donor, which he did not report. The justice said he had been advised that personal hospitality from friends did not need to be reported the same way justices are required to report other gifts.

Committee Chair Sen. Dick Durbin requested Roberts or another justice of his choosing come before the committee to be questioned on ethical guidelines and reforms. Republicans on the committee have spoken out, advising Roberts to reject the invitation.

Republicans in Congress say there is no precedent for questioning justices on the ethical guidelines of the court. Durbin has cited a 2011 hearing where Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer testified on ethical guidelines for the court

“It is troubling that your 2011 year-end report, which dismissed the call for the Justices to adopt the Code of Conduct, was written notwithstanding the known concerns about Mr. Crow’s largesse. This problem could have been resolved then. Instead, according to ProPublica’s reporting, Mr. Crow’s dispensation of favors escalated in secret during the years that followed. Now the Court faces a crisis of public confidence in its ethical standards that must be addressed,” Durbin wrote.

Justices do not typically appear before Congress voluntarily, except for issues related to the court’s budget. If Roberts declines the invitation, it isn’t clear whether the committee will issue a subpoena, in part due to the absence of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, which would make it impossible for Democrats to secure the majority vote needed to issue one.

NewsNation affiliate The Hill reached out to the Supreme Court for comment and has not yet received a reply.