Supreme Court Chief Justice John Robert’s Wife Could Face Ethics Inquiry

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Jane Sullivan Roberts could be the subject of an ethics investigation by the Justice Department.

Jane Roberts’ former colleague is seeking an inquiry because she claims that Jane Roberts was paid millions to her wife as a commission to place lawyers in firms. Some of these lawyers have business before the Supreme Court according to a letter obtained from the New York Times.

Jane Roberts, a former partner in a law firm, had to give up her career to become a high-end lawyer recruiter in order to avoid conflicts of interests after her husband joined Supreme Court.

Kendal Price (66), a Boston lawyer, suggested that justices should be required disclose more information about their spouses’ work. Although he didn’t cite specific Supreme Court decisions he was concerned that having a financial relationship to law firms that argue before him could impact or appear to affect justices impartiality.

Price stated that he believes U.S. court litigants, especially the Supreme Court, should know if six-figure payments are being made by law firms to their families.

Jane Roberts and Price were previously legal recruiters at Major, Lindsey & Africa, a multinational firm based in Maryland. According to the New York Times, Price was fired and sued Jane Roberts and another executive for his dismissal.

Although he lost the case, documents from the case show that Jane Roberts received commissions between 2007 and 2014. Jane Roberts is credited with six-figure fees for placing law partners in firms. Jane Roberts received $690,000.000 from one match.

Jane Roberts, now a Macrae lawyer out of Washington, D.C., stated that she dealt with conflicts on a case by case basis, taking care not to have any connection to the chief justice’s work, and not working with Supreme Court lawyers.

Patricia McCabe, spokesperson for the Supreme Court, stated in a statement to The New York Times that all justices are “attentive” to ethical constraints and comply with financial disclosure laws.

McCabe stated that the chief justice and his spouse consulted the code for conduct for federal judges as well as an advisory opinion dating back to 2009. McCabe stated that the code of conduct for federal judges and an advisory opinion from 2009 were consulted by McCabe. The opinion states that a judge should not be excused simply because their spouse worked as a recruiter at a law firm dealing with matters before them.

Chief Justice Roberts did not list his wife’s earnings or employers in annual disclosures. He gave a brief description of the “attorney-search consultants” and their salary. Price stated in his letter that the description could be misleading as salaries are “guaranteed” and “steady”, but that commissions “depend upon cultivating and capitalizing relationships to consummate specific deals.”

Chief Justice Roberts was never absent from any case during his tenure on the Supreme Court.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee stated in a statement, that Price’s letter raised troubling issues that “once again demonstrate the necessity” for ethics reforms in order to “begin restoring faith in Supreme Court.”