WATCH: Durbin says Roberts’ refusal to testify in ethics hearing is ‘defense of the status quo’

In opening remarks during a committee hearing on Supreme Court ethics reform, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that the high court does not consider itself bound by the same ethics laws and standards that govern Congress and other parts of the judicial branch of the federal government.

The hearing came a few weeks after reporting from ProPublica revealed Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas’ personal relationship with billionaire Harlan Crow, which has involved luxury trips paid for by Crow and high-value real estate deals.

Durbin added that he had invited Chief Justice John Roberts to testify at the committee’s hearing, but Roberts declined, citing “separation of powers concerns” and “the importance of preserving the judicial independence” in a letter he sent to Durbin.

“Answering legitimate questions from the people’s elected representatives is one of the checks and balances that helps preserve the separation of powers,” Durbin said, taking issue with Roberts’ argument.

Durbin noted that Roberts attached a document to his letter that details the ethics, principles and practices that govern the Supreme Court, which Durbin said lays out why justices believe they should not be treated the same as other federal judges when it comes to ethics.
“Chief Justice Roberts’ letter and statement of principles are a defense of the status quo,” he added.

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