(CN) - Releasing her third policy proposal in the last six days, Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren said Monday she plans to flush out corruption and unethical conduct among federally appointed judges.
“It’s time to ensure that judges do not hear cases where they have conflicts of interests, strengthen our nation’s ethics rules for judges, and ensure accountability for judges who violate these rules,” her online proposal states.
Noting one study that found 24 cases in which judges presided over cases with companies in which they owned stock, Warren held up Johnson & Johnson as an example of a company that saw a favorable ruling from a judge who owned its stock.
Warren said federal judges should not be allowed to own or trade individual stocks in the first place.
“A basic principle of our federal judicial system is that judges make decisions as disinterested, impartial observers – stepping aside when they may not be able to decide cases objectively,” she wrote. “This principle should also bar judges from being the final arbiter of whether they can be objective in the first place.”
Calling for chief judges to establish a binding recusal process, Warren also said that Supreme Court justices who are asked by parties to recuse themselves from cases should have to publicly explain in writing their decisions to stay or leave.
Warren notes that Supreme Court justices face no code of conduct and noted several examples where that raised red flags. In one case, Justice Antonin Scalia went hunting with former Vice President Dick Cheney and then heard a case that involved him. Warren also recalled that 83 ethics complaints against Justice Brett Kavanaugh were dismissed when he was confirmed to the nation’s highest court.
In addition to extending the Code of Conduct for U.S. judges to the Supreme Court, Warren promised to strengthen that code so that justices can no longer accept speaking fees or all-expenses-paid trips from outside groups.
Warren emphasized as well that Judge Alex Kozinski was allowed to retire as chief of the Ninth Circuit after sexual harassment and inappropriate touching complaints from 15 female law clerks. Another judge who retired to head off an investigation, Warren pointed out, was President Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry.
Warren’s plan would prevent federal judges from leaving their posts while they’re the targets of investigations. She would create an impeachment process and make their taxpayer-funded pension pay contingent on above-board behavior.
“These reforms will ensure that judges who commit serious, impeachable offenses will more likely be promptly removed from office,” the proposal states. “These changes will not only allow us to ensure accountability for bad actors, including reopening inquiries into the conduct of offenders like Brett Kavanaugh. They will also hold the vast majority of judges who act in good faith to the highest ethical standards, and in the process, begin to restore accountability and trust in a fair and impartial federal judiciary.”
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