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The Un-Supreme Court

By Tamra Stroud

As a paralegal, I am held to certain ethical standards. These ethical standards are spelled out and are called Canons. They can be found in every scholastic paralegal degree program and are required in order to obtain your degree and/or certification to be a paralegal. Lawyers have these Canons as well and can lose their bar licenses if they go against them and they are proven to be in direct violation of them either through a criminal proceeding or a proceeding in front of their State Bar Association. In layman’s terms, you don’t want to go against these written rules because if you do, you are in a whole lot of trouble. While there are five specific Canons for paralegals, the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) list a total of ten. Paralegals and attorneys are held to ethical standards that they must maintain in order to keep themselves on the right side of things in the legal field. Similarly, United States Judges have ethical standards they must adhere to, only in this case, those are referred to as a Code of Conduct for United States Judges, but they also contain Canons just like for attorneys and paralegals.

This brings us to the Canons that are specific to judges in the United States of America. The Code of Conduct for United States Judges was initially adopted by the Judicial Conference on April 5, 1973, and was known as the “Code of Judicial Conduct for United States Judges.” There have been updates and changes to these, however the base remains the same. US Judges are held to a specific code of conduct and ethics and I would like to reflect on two in particular, those being Canons 2 and 4, both of which are outlined below for your ease of reference:

Canon 2: A Judge Should Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in all Activities

(B) Outside Influence. A judge should not allow family, social, political, financial, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge should neither lend the prestige of the judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others nor convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. A judge should not testify voluntarily as a character witness. [Emphasis Added]


Canon 2A. An appearance of impropriety occurs when reasonable minds, with knowledge of all the relevant circumstances disclosed by a reasonable inquiry, would conclude that the judge’s honesty, integrity, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge is impaired. Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct by judges, including harassment and other inappropriate workplace behavior. A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. This prohibition applies to both professional and personal conduct. A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny and accept freely and willingly restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen. Because it is not practicable to list all prohibited acts, the prohibition is necessarily cast in general terms that extend to conduct by judges that is harmful although not specifically mentioned in the Code. Actual improprieties under this standard include violations of law, court rules, or other specific provisions of this Code.

Let me reiterate, in Canon 2, it states, “A Judge Should Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in all Activities”. Further, as stated above, “an appearance of impropriety occurs when reasonable minds, with knowledge of all the relevant circumstances disclosed by a reasonable inquiry, would conclude that the judge’s honesty, integrity, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge is impaired.” This is exactly the type of thing that both Supreme Court Justices Alito and Thomas are, in my opinion, in complete and utter breach of. In Justice Alito’s case, we need only look to what he has done with his home and his recent scandal of having an upside-down American Flag at his home and an Appeal to Heaven Flag at his beach home. Both of these symbols directly show that the judge and his family (namely his wife) are stating for all to see that they have extremely strong opinions about the state of the country and that they sympathize with traitorous, in this writer’s opinion, bad actors that were previously, and currently, in our government. All one needs to do to see how unethical Justice Alito’s behavior is is to reflect on Canon 2, Section B wherein it specifically speaks to outside influence whether that be family, his wife in this case, social or political influence.

Canon 4: A Judge May Engage in Extrajudicial Activities that are Consistent with the Obligations of Judicial Office

A judge may engage in extrajudicial activities, including law-related pursuits and civic, charitable, educational, religious, social, financial, fiduciary, and governmental activities, and may speak, write, lecture, and teach on both law-related and nonlegal subjects. However, a judge should not participate in extrajudicial activities that detract from the dignity of the judge’s office, interfere with the performance of the judge’s official duties, reflect adversely on the judge’s impartiality, lead to frequent disqualification, or violate the limitations set forth below.

(H) Compensation, Reimbursement, and Financial Reporting. A judge may accept compensation and reimbursement of expenses for the law-related and extrajudicial activities permitted by this Code if the source of the payments does not give the appearance of influencing the judge in the judge’s judicial duties or otherwise give the appearance of impropriety, subject to the following restrictions:

(3) A  judge should make required financial disclosures, including disclosures of gifts and other things of value, in compliance with applicable statutes and Judicial Conference regulations and directives. [Emphasis Added]

In Canon 4, Section H, it specifically states that “A judge should make required financial disclosures, including disclosures of gifts and other things of value”. This is the Canon I would like to draw attention to when it comes to Justice Thomas. If you have been keeping tabs on Politico’s stories regarding Justice Thomas’ non-disclosures of his various trips and gifts from a man named Harlan Crow. Trips, school payments for Justice Thomas’s family members and the purchase of Justice Thomas’ mother’s home and two vacant lots next to it. If this does not scream that Justice Thomas is indeed at odds with the ethical Canons required of all US Judges, I truly don’t know what does. Justice Thomas, as of the date of this article, has refused to disclose decades of gifts given to him via one Harlan Crow. It could not be any clearer to this writer just how much Justice Thomas has gone against the ethical standards that should be held and abided by anyone working in the legal field, least of all the very top of the legal food chain if you will, that of United States Supreme Court Justices.

Our United States Supreme Court has rarely been thought of in such a bad light as it has been in the past decade. You may ask yourself how we got here and what can be done. Unfortunately, there is no real solution, but there are indeed steps that can be taken to rectify this situation. One option is to expand the court, add an additional three justices to even out the lopsided makeup of the current SCOTUS. It would of course take an act of the President of the United States and it has also been stated that it would take an act of Congress to expand the court. In this political climate and with the Senate and the House being monopolized by the MAGA Republicans, specifically in the House, this potential solution may be dead on arrival. In fact, President Biden created a Commission to review this particular solution back in 2021. Unfortunately, not much else has been decided regarding this strategy as of yet. To review the Commission’s findings, please feel free to go here: SETTING-THE-STAGE.pdf (whitehouse.gov)

Another option is to put forward impeachment proceedings regarding the two specific Justices named above, Alito and Thomas, and to put that through Congress as they have the ultimate decision on this. Again, we are faced with the MAGA Republicans in the House of Representatives that will most likely not push this forward when the time comes for them to have their voice heard on it.

The takeaways from this situation we find ourselves in, we must vote. We must get people into office who have the best interest of the Country and its citizens in mind. The makeup of the Supreme Court is done specifically by the President of the United States, however, as we witnessed during the last year of President Obama’s administration, the Senate can cause a stalemate on confirming a president’s pick for a spot on the Supreme Court. Of course, the following administration was able to somehow push through Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation in even less time left before an election when it came to Donald Trump’s administration. Interesting how that worked out isn’t it? Let me reiterate, vote, vote in every election, you never know who is today’s Senator and tomorrow’s President of the United States of America.

Notes from the Author:

To make your voice heard as a concerned citizen regarding the ethical lapses in the above-referenced Supreme Court Justices, please feel free to do the following:

Go to www.uscourts.gov and find the Judicial Misconduct Complaint form that anyone can fill out and submit. Federal Law 28 US Code §445 states a Justice must remove himself from a case if impartiality can be questioned. If you feel so inclined please fill one out on both Justice Alito and Justice Thomas to let Justice Roberts know that we the people want the two Justices, who are clearly displaying less than ethical behavior, nowhere near cases that we can plainly see they have a vested interest in.

If you would like to review the complete Code of Conduct for United States Judges, you can find it here: Code of Conduct for United States Judges | United States Courts (uscourts.gov)

If you would like to review the complete list of Canons for Paralegals by NALA, you can find it here: Microsoft Word – NALA Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility_Final_030522

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