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March 13, 2024

Rep. Schiff Introduces Bill to Expand Penalties for Judges and Justices Who Violate Ethics Rules, Restore Integrity to the Courts

Washington, D.C.— Today, Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the Judicial Integrity Act, a critical bill that will hold federal judges and justices accountable for violations of their ethical duties and restore integrity to the courts. Specifically, Schiff’s bill would expand the criminal conflict of interest statute (18 U.S.C. § 208), which currently prevents executive branch employees from acting with a conflict of interest, to the federal judiciary.

The legislation is cosponsored by Representatives Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), Jonathan Jackson (D-Ill.), and Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.).

"Recent investigative reports and serious lapses in judgment by members of the bench have shaken the foundation of trust between the American public and the judiciary, casting doubt on our belief in a fair and impartial legal system," said Rep. Schiff. "The Judicial Integrity Act will help Americans regain trust in the judicial system and have confidence that it is fair, unbiased, and free from undue outside influence by setting rigorous ethical standards for federal judges and justices."

"Federal judges should protect the law of the land, not their own personal interests. The Judicial Integrity Act will add sorely needed procedural safeguards to hold federal judges and justices to higher ethical standards. In a time where the corruption runs rampant on the ultra-conservative Supreme Court, I am proud to stand alongside Rep. Schiff and my colleagues to take bold steps to fight corruption and restore public confidence in our judicial system," said Rep. Barbara Lee.

“The American people deserve and should expect that judges and justices are working on behalf of the public, not lining their own pockets,” said Rep. Hank Johnson, ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet. “The Judicial Integrity Act provides the framework to hold federal judges accountable for financial conflicts of interest and help stem the legitimacy crisis that has taken hold in our judicial system.”

"Our democracy depends on a robust fealty to the rule of law, which requires that judges — including Supreme Court justices — recuse from any case in which they may have a conflict of interest,” Congressman Dan Goldman said. "These conflicts of interest erode the trust that our system of government is truly working in the public interest, not in any official’s personal interest. To restore this trust, it's imperative that judges be required to recuse from matters in which they have a vested interest, just as executive branch employees must do.”

“Our judicial system is in a state of crisis—Americans have lost faith in our courts as billionaires and shadowy special interests are paying top dollar to influence the courts,” said Tiffany Muller, President of End Citizens United // Let America Vote Action Fund. “To begin rebuilding Americans’ confidence, the Judicial Integrity Act will hold judges and justice fully accountable for any ethics violations. We thank Congressman Schiff for his continued leadership in the fight to reform our courts.” 

"Over the last several years we have repeatedly seen evidence that federal judges and Supreme Court justices are not willing or able to hold themselves to the high ethical standards their positions of trust and power demand," said Debra Perlin, Policy Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). "By applying the same criminal conflict of interest statute that regulates conduct in the executive branch to the judiciary, the Judicial Integrity Act would create a mechanism to ensure that judges and Justices are abiding by their statutory obligation to avoid conflicts of interest. CREW strongly supports the Judicial Integrity Act and encourages Congress to pass it expeditiously and bring real accountability to the judiciary."

"Federal law prohibits officials in Congress and the executive branch from getting involved in official actions that pose a direct personal conflict of interest for that official, such as issuing government contracts to businesses owned by the official. But the conflict of interest code does not apply to the judiciary. Somehow we all thought the judicial branch would be above self-dealing. Recent scandals involving the Supreme Court have proven that assumption wrong. The Judicial Integrity Act is long-needed legislation to apply the same conflict of interest standards for Congress and the executive branch to the judiciary. Public Citizen strongly endorses this commonsense measure,” said Craig Holman, Ph.D., Public Citizen.

Last year, Schiff championed legislation that would help to restore faith in our justice system. In June, Schiff introduced the Justice is Beneficial Limitation on Investments and Necessary Disclosure (BLIND) Act, a bill that would require judges to place their financial assets and investments into blind trusts. Schiff also introduced the Judiciary Act of 2023 which would expand the Supreme Court to 13 members. Later in September, Rep. Schiff joined as an original cosponsor of the Supreme Court Tenure Establishment and Retirement Modernization (TERM) Act, which would set term limits for Supreme Court justices while establishing a process for Supreme Court appointments. 

The Judicial Integrity Act is supported by the Alliance for Justice, Center for Popular Democracy, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Common Cause, Demand Justice, End Citizens United/Let America Vote (ECU/LAV), Fix the Court, Free Speech for People, Government Accountability Project, Government Information Watch, National Taxpayers Union (NTU), People for the American Way (PFAW), Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Public Citizen, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), and Take Back the Court.

To read the full bill text, click HERE.