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Supreme Court unanimously rejects ethics complaints by Democrats against Justice Clarence Thomas

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The United States Supreme Court unanimously rejected ethics complaints about Justice Clarence Thomas by Democrats.

Sen Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter on April 20 requesting Chief Justice John Roberts appear for a hearing about potential conflicts of interest within the top court. The letter was signed by all 11 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.

The letter follows a ProPublica article about Justice Clarence Thomas reportedly receiving gifts from a billionaire conservative donor and friend. Justice Thomas has denied any wrongdoing. Democrats have also targeted Justice Neil Gorsuch for alleged ethical lapses.

Durbin claimed that there is a "crisis of public confidence" in the Supreme Court, adding that the "status quo is no longer tenable."

"The time has come for a new public conversation on ways to restore confidence in the Court’s ethical standards," Durbin wrote.

Roberts fired off his own letter declining to appear for the hearing.

"I must respectfully decline your invitation," Roberts told Durbin. "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 pointed out that Supreme Court justices have only testified before Congress for reasons other than nominations or appropriations on two occasions.

Then, all nine Supreme Court justices unanimously rejected Durbin's request.

"The undersigned Justices today reaffirm and restate foundational ethics principles and practices to which they subscribe in carrying out their responsibilities as Members of the Supreme 4 Court of the United States," the justices stated in a letter. "This statement aims to provide new clarity to the bar and to the public on how the Justices address certain recurring issues, and also seeks to dispel some common misconceptions."

"The Justices, like other federal judges, consult a wide variety of authorities to address specific ethical issues," the SCOTUS letter read. "They may turn to judicial opinions, treatises, scholarly articles, disciplinary decisions, and the historical practice of the Court and the federal judiciary. They may also seek advice from the Court's Legal Office and from their colleagues."

Durbin said on Thursday, "Supreme Court ethics reform must happen whether the Court participates in the process or not. 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 asked Roberts to provide more details in writing regarding how the Supreme Court drafted its ethics statement and how it enforces it.

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