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Lawmakers call for hearing on Supreme Court recusal bill

First Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court is just around the corner, and some congressional Democrats are stepping up their push to try to make Supreme Court justices step aside in cases where they have financial or political ties.

The issue has received increased attention as the fight over the constitutionality of the federal health care law makes it way to the nation’s highest Court.

In a letter that will be sent to House leaders today, several Democratic lawmakers are calling for a hearing on the Supreme Court Transparency and Disclosure Act, H.R. 862, which would apply the code to Supreme Court justices, require the justices to publicly disclose the reasoning behind any recusal from hearing a case as well as the reason for refusing to recuse after a motion is made for them to do so, and direct the Judicial Conference to establish enforcement mechanisms for the code.

The letter, obtained yesterday by the New York Times, cites “alarming reports of justices – most notably Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito – attending political events and using their position to fundraise for organizations. These activities would be prohibited if the justices were required to abide by the Judicial Conference Code of Conduct, which currently applies to all other federal judges.”

Scalia and Thomas have come under fire recently for their relationship with conservative political financiers David and Charles Koch, and for the political activities of Thomas’ wife, Virginia. Similarly Republicans have questioned whether Justice Elena Kagan should sit in on the health care challenge because she was solicitor general when the challenge to the law was first filed.

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