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The US supreme court’s alleged ethics issues are worse than you probably realize | Moira Donegan

Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch have both been accused of ethics violations – and John Roberts refuses to discuss the matter with Congress

It was a short letter. John Roberts, chief justice of the US supreme court, was brief in his missive to Democratic senator Dick Durbin, who chairs the Senate judiciary committee. Citing “separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence”, Roberts declined to appear before the committee to discuss disturbing recent revelations of ethics violations at the court.

Congress is meant to exert checks on judicial power – to investigate or even impeach judges who abuse their office or interpret the law in ways that violate its spirit, and to affirm that the elected branches will hold more sway over policy than the appointed one. But the chief justice’s show of indifference to congressional oversight authority reflects a new reality: that there are now effectively no checks on the power of the court – at least none that Democrats have the political will to use – and that the justices can be assured that they will face no repercussions even if they act in flagrant violation of ethical standards. It seems that they intend to.

Moira Donegan is a Guardian US columnist

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