Ethics and Accountability on the US Supreme Court

An Analysis of Recusal Practices

By Robert J. Hume

Subjects: Political Science, American Government, American History, Judicial Administration, Public Policy
Series: SUNY series in American Constitutionalism
Paperback : 9781438466965, 204 pages, July 2018
Hardcover : 9781438466972, 204 pages, December 2017

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

1. The Conspiracy of Silence

2. Competing Explanations for Supreme Court Recusals

3. An Analysis of the Justices’ Recusal Practices

4. The Impact of Recusals on Supreme Court Policy Making

5. Other Consequences of Recusals

6. Proposals for Reform

Works Cited
Cases Cited

Examines the causes and consequences of recusal behavior on the US Supreme Court.


Do US Supreme Court justices withdraw from cases when they are supposed to? What happens when the Court is down a member? In Ethics and Accountability on the US Supreme Court, Robert J. Hume provides the first comprehensive examination of the causes and consequences of recusal behavior on the Supreme Court. Using original data, and with rich attention to historical detail including media commentary about recusals, he systematically analyzes the factors that influence Supreme Court recusal, a process which has so far been shrouded in secrecy. It is revealed that justices do not strictly follow the recusal guidelines set by Congress, but at the same time they do not ignore these rules. Overall, justices are selective in their compliance with the recusal statute, balancing ethical considerations against other institutional and policy goals, such as the duty to sit. However, the book also concludes that the impact of recusals on policymaking is more limited than commentators have claimed, raising questions about whether ethics reform is really needed at this time.

Robert J. Hume is Professor of Political Science at Fordham University. He is the author of Courthouse Democracy and Minority Rights: Same-Sex Marriage in the States and How Courts Impact Federal Administrative Behavior.


"Highly recommended to all specialists in constitutional law. " — CHOICE