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Critics Want Stronger Ethics Guidelines For Supreme Court

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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is defending his colleagues from critics who say the high court needs tighter ethics rules.
Matt Laslo
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is defending his colleagues from critics who say the high court needs tighter ethics rules.

As Virginia and other states challenge the nation's new health care law, many activists on the right and left are calling for two justices to recuse themselves from the case.

Conservatives say Justice Elena Kagan needs to sit the healthcare case out because she was in the Obama Administration when it passed. Liberals say Justice Clarence Thomas needs to sit it out because his wife receives money from groups opposing the law.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is defending his colleagues from critics who say the high court needs tighter ethics rules. He says it's easier to recuse oneself when serving on a lower court.

"Now on the Supreme Court, there's a difference," says Breyer. "Because I'm out of a case, that could turn the result. And there's nobody who will take a substitute. That means I have to take with absolute seriousness the obligation to sit, as well as the obligation not to sit."

Critics say the justices need stronger ethics guidelines and some are pushing to allow retired justices to substitute when current justices sit a case out. That's unlikely to happen before the Supreme Court hears challenges to the health care law supported by Virginia and other states in March.

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