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Bipartisan Lawmakers Query Supreme Court Travel Records

Simone Jonker
Simone Jonker worked in NTD Inspired for two years. She wrote light articles and inspiring stories.
Published: June 12, 2021
Sens. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked the Department of Justice and the U.S. Marshals Service for Supreme Court travel documents in a June 4 inquiry.
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 10: The sun rises behind the U.S. Supreme Court on June 10, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Image: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Sens. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) asked the Department of Justice and the U.S. Marshals Service for Supreme Court travel documents in a June 4 inquiry. 

In a bipartisan effort, Whitehouse and Kennedy’s letter to the DOJ requested details about Supreme Court Justices’ trips outside of Washington, D.C. over the last ten years.

John Kennedy is a leading Republican politician on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action, and Federal Rights. Sheldon Whitehouse is the Chairman of that panel.

“To help us assess how disclosures by members of the court accord with the judicial branch’s disclosure standards, and to improve the consistency of disclosure standards across the three branches, we write to request information about Marshals Service travel accompanying members of the court over the last ten years,” the Senators wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Director of the U.S. Marshals Service, Donald Washington.

The duo seeks disclosure of all locations and related documents connected to trips Justices made outside of Washington D.C. between Jan. 1, 2011, and present, including names of who they visited and the cost incurred by the U.S. Marshalls. 

The Senators cited the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 and the Ethics in Federal Government Act of 1978, which applies to senior government officials to divulge outside revenue, presents, and compensations yearly, as the reason for their approach.

Supreme Court Police Protection 

According to a June 8 article by Roll Call, while the Supreme Court Police handle security for the High Court inside of D.C., Justices may request extra security from the U.S. Marshals Service for domestic travel.

The legislators agreed that disclosure standards for the country’s Judicial Branch contrasted to various other legislators are “significantly less stringent.” 

“The Executive Branch and both chambers of Congress have issued implementing regulations and/or rules that require disclosures beyond what the above-cited statutes require. For example, executive and legislative branch disclosure rules require disclosure of estimated dollar values of reimbursements; require descriptions of meetings and events attended in connection to the reimbursement; narrowly construe the Ethics in Government Act’s ‘personal hospitality’ exemption (e.g., to require disclosure of hospitality provided by lobbyists); and require prompt online publication of, and easy public access to, financial disclosures,” Whitehouse and Kennedy said in their letter.

“The Judicial Branch’s comparable guidelines are significantly less stringent. Even those requirements, however, do not formally apply to the Justices of the Supreme Court. As a result, the justices of our highest court are subject to the lowest standards of transparency of any senior officials across the federal government.” 

Congress is currently reevaluating expense reports and financial disclosure requirements for senior officials, which Kennedy and Whitehouse state needs to be expanded to include members of the High Court.

No deadline for the fulfillment of the request was set down in the letter.