Congressman Johnson Works to Ensure Courts are Accessible to the Public
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04) has introduced H.R. 6017, the 21st Century Courts Act, building upon his work to make the federal court system accessible and accountable to the American public.
“Crucially, this legislation will require the Supreme Court to produce a code of ethics for themselves. “Unlike all other federal judges, Supreme Court Justices are not bound by a code of ethics,” said Congressman Johnson, “The Supreme Court must create common-sense ethical standards to ensure public trust in this institution.”
Additionally, the 21st Century Courts Act will work to make judicial proceedings available to every American, and not just the wealthy few. “When court records are only accessible to those who can afford to access them, we are excluding many Americans from the judicial system. These resources cannot just be reserved for the rich – Congress must make court proceedings available and accessible to everyone,” said Congressman Johnson.
Congressman Johnson was joined by Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Representative Mike Quigley in introducing H.R. 6017, and the legislation has garnered wide support amongst advocates for judicial reform.
“Transparency and ethics are vital to the integrity of the judiciary, and they are vital to maintaining the public’s trust in our courts, particularly as attacks on judicial independence and the rule of law have become more common,” said Chairman Nadler. “This bill reinforces the judiciary’s commitment to ethical conduct and empowers the public to learn about the important work of our federal courts.”
“Faith in our democracy and in our governmental institutions can only be strengthened by increased transparency and accountability from every branch of government. That is why I was a co-founder of the Transparency Caucus and why I have championed increased transparency from federal courts throughout my time in Congress,” said Congressman Quigley. “That means that our nation’s highest court must embrace an ethics code and federal courts around the country must make their records more accessible the public. Given the historic flaws of our judicial system, we must take steps to ensure that public trust is not eroded any further.”
“For decades now it has been apparent that the federal judiciary operates with too much opacity and secrecy,” said Dylan Hedtler-Gaudette, Policy Analyst with the Project On Government Oversight. “The 21st Century Courts Act will provide a long-overdue jolt of accountability and transparency to the federal courts by implementing a range of common sense reforms, including directing the Supreme Court to write an ethics code for itself, modernizing financial disclosures, providing insight into recusal patterns by requiring that judges explain their recusal decision, and enhancing public access to the judiciary by providing live audio streaming of court proceedings and increasing the public’s ability to access court records. Representative Johnson, Quigley, and Nadler should be commended for leading the way on this transformational legislation.”
Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth said: "An independent judiciary requires the public’s confidence in the impartiality of judges and justices. Ensuring that the Supreme Court abides by a code of conduct, that every level of the judiciary better accounts for conflicts of interest and that all Americans have unfettered access to court documents – as this bill calls for – would go a long way toward building that confidence. The bill further recognizes that most Americans are unable to take off work and travel to a courthouse to experience appellate arguments in person and so provides for critical real-time broadcast access to these proceedings. I am grateful to Reps. Johnson, Quigley, and Nadler for demonstrating such a strong commitment to improving transparency and accountability in our federal courts.”