Critique of the Supreme Court’s Code of Conduct: The Issue of Enforcement

Rob Wiley

Dallas Employment Trial Lawyer Rob Wiley

The Supreme Court plays a crucial role for Texas employment lawyers representing employees due to its power to interpret and set precedents in federal employment law. Decisions made by the Court on issues like workplace discrimination, wage and hour laws, and employees’ rights under federal statutes directly impact the legal framework within which Texas employment lawyers operate. These rulings can either expand or limit the rights and protections available to employees in Texas. It is vital that the Supreme Court maintain the highest ethics of any court.  

Sadly, I am unimpressed with the new Code of Conduct issued by the Supreme Court.  While this initiative is commendable for attempting to consolidate ethical standards, it crucially falls short in one major area: enforcement.

Lack of Enforcement Mechanism: A Major Flaw

The Code outlines several canons, ranging from upholding judicial integrity to refraining from political activity. However, it notably lacks a concrete mechanism for enforcement. Without a clear system to monitor compliance or address violations, these rules risk being mere symbolic gestures rather than effective safeguards.

Canon 1: Integrity and Independence – But How Ensured?

Canon 1 emphasizes the need for Justices to maintain high standards of conduct. However, without oversight, it’s unclear how these standards will be upheld, potentially leaving room for individual interpretations that could compromise judicial integrity.

Canon 2: Avoiding Impropriety – Only in Theory?

The Code’s emphasis on avoiding impropriety and its appearance is critical. Yet, without enforcement, this principle risks being subjective and potentially ignored. The absence of a system to investigate and act upon potential improprieties undermines the very purpose of this canon.

Canon 3: Impartiality Without Accountability

While Canon 3 mandates the Justices to perform their duties impartially, the lack of a formal process for addressing partiality concerns or breaches negates its effectiveness. It begs the question: what happens if a Justice fails to adhere to these standards?

Canon 4: Extra-Judicial Activities – Who Watches the Watchers?

This Canon allows Justices to engage in certain activities outside their judicial role. However, the line between what is permissible and what might compromise the dignity of their office is thin and, without oversight, potentially easily crossed.

Canon 5: Political Neutrality – More Than Just Words Needed

The prohibition on political activity is a cornerstone of judicial impartiality. However, the absence of an enforcement mechanism could lead to violations going unchecked, potentially eroding public confidence in the Court’s neutrality.

A Code Without Teeth

What we have, then, is a set of well-intentioned principles that, in the absence of a robust enforcement framework, risk being rendered ineffective. Without the means to enforce these canons, they remain aspirational at best. The Supreme Court, in failing to establish a system of accountability, misses a crucial step in ensuring that these rules are more than just words on paper.

Undermining Public Trust

The effectiveness of any code of conduct is significantly undermined when there is no mechanism to enforce it. For an institution as pivotal as the Supreme Court, this oversight not only weakens the Code itself but potentially diminishes public trust in the judiciary.


While the introduction of a Code of Conduct for Supreme Court Justices is a step forward in formalizing ethical standards, its impact is severely limited by the lack of an enforcement mechanism. For a body as influential as the Supreme Court, the absence of such a framework is a notable deficiency, undermining the potential benefits of these newly established rules.

If you are an employee with an employment dispute with an employer, I invite you to contact the Texas employment lawyers at my law firm to schedule an initial consultation.


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