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“Ethics inquiry ordered after Scalia flap” ["In Brief," NLJ, May 31] appears to proceed from an erroneous premise. The story states that U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist “ordered a study of federal judicial ethics” and links his action to the recent controversy involving Justice Antonin Scalia’s refusal to recuse himself. My understanding is that the committee’s inquiry will concern chiefly, if it is not confined to, experience under the Judicial Councils Reform and Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980. That statute does not apply to justices of the Supreme Court of the United States; moreover, its intended reach (conduct harmful to the administration of justice) only partially overlaps with “judicial ethics” as commonly understood. The chief justice’s remarks upon appointing the committee specifically refer to the 1980 act and to recent criticism of its implementation by members of Congress. In any event, it is inconceivable (at least to me) that the chief justice would appoint a committee composed primarily of members of lower courts to look into the practices of the Supreme Court or its justices. There may be good reason to inquire about the recusal practices of the justices of the Supreme Court, but I do not believe that your readers should expect any recommendations on that subject from this committee. Stephen B. Burbank Philadelphia The writer is David Berger Professor for the Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, was a member of the National Commission on Judicial Discipline and Removal and serves as chairman of the Judicial Independence and Accountability Task Force of the American Judicature Society.

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