Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh said Thursday that the high court will “soon” take action to address ethics concerns raised by recent news reports.
At a conference of lawyers and judges in Ohio, Kavanaugh noted that Chief Justice John Roberts has said the court will uphold “the highest standards of conduct” and promised to “give practical effect to that commitment.”
“The chief justice spoke about that in May and said that we are continuing to work on those issues and that is accurate,” Kavanaugh said, per multiple reports. “We are continuing to work on those, and I’m hopeful that there will be some concrete steps taken soon on that.”
The Supreme Court has come under strict scrutiny after ProPublica investigations detailed private jet travel and other gifts Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito received from billionaire Republican donors. The reports have outraged Democrats, who have called for Congress to impose a code of ethics on the high court, while Thomas and Alito have denied any wrongdoing.
Kavanaugh alluded to the ethics complaints against his colleagues and declining public opinion of the court amid a series of controversial decisions on gun and abortion rights by the 6-3 conservative majority.
“There’s a storm around us in the political world and the world at large in America,” Kavanaugh told the audience. “We, as judges and the legal system, need to try to be a little more, I think, of the calm in the storm.”
Justice Thomas acknowledged recently that he took three trips last year aboard a private plane owned by Republican megadonor Harlan Crow even as he rejected criticism over his failure to report trips in previous years.
Reporting by the investigative news site ProPublica also revealed that Justice Alito failed to disclose a private trip to Alaska he took in 2008 that was paid for by two wealthy Republican donors, one of whom repeatedly had interests before the court.
The Associated Press separately reported in July that Justice Sonia Sotomayor had advanced sales of her books through college visits over the past decade.
“My perspective is we’re nine public servants who are hard-working and care a lot about the court and care a lot about the judiciary as a whole,” Kavanaugh said, according to The Associated Press. The justices “respect the institution and want that respect for the institution to be shared by the American people, recognizing that people are going to disagree with our decisions,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.