Ethics concerns raised over business ties of Supreme Court chief justice’s wife

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A former colleague of Chief Justice John Roberts’s wife raised ethics concerns last month about how the Supreme Court’s business intersects with her recruiting work, according to documents obtained by The Hill.

Kendal Price — who previously worked with Jane Roberts at Major, Lindsey & Africa — alleged the chief justice may have violated recusal and financial disclosure rules for judges in a letter to the Justice Department and House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders on Dec. 5, The New York Times and Politico reported.

The letter adds to the growing scrutiny surrounding the justices’ spouses, which comes as increasing numbers of Americans believe the court is acting politically.

Jane Roberts for years has worked in the legal recruiting business, placing a number of high-ranking public officials in the private sector. She reportedly guided the moves of Robert Bennett, who represented former President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, to Hogan Lovells and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to WilmerHale.

Price’s letter delves into Jane Roberts’s compensation and whether John Roberts properly recused himself in some cases, according to the Times and Politico.

The letter in part lists Supreme Court cases related to the WilmerHale firm since 2012. A WilmerHale spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.

In 2019, Jane Roberts said she handles potential conflicts on a case-by-case basis and avoids matters with any connection to her husband’s role. She said she did not work with those with ongoing business before the Supreme Court.

A Supreme Court spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment. Jane Roberts and Macrae, a boutique legal recruiting firm where she now works, also did not return requests for comment.

“It is respectfully requested that the Department of Justice and the Congress initiate investigations into the conduct outlined and corroborated in the attached Exhibits,” Joshua Dratel, Price’s attorney, told the lawmakers.

Price, who was fired from Major, Lindsey & Africa in 2013, sued the firm in Massachusetts state court in proceedings that eventually moved into arbitration.

Price named Jane Roberts as a defendant in the case, and the letter includes a transcript of sworn testimony she gave in arbitration proceedings.

When reached for comment, Price in a statement tied the sending of the letter to the historically low public support in the Supreme Court.

“We must take seriously the loss of faith in the highest court of America, a country of laws, not people (and especially powerful people),” Price said. “Repairing that could not be a more important task, and it is the reason I believed it was the right time to come forward with this evidence.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in a statement called for passing a bill that would strengthen ethical requirements for the justices.

“This complaint raises troubling issues that once again demonstrate the need for a mandatory code of conduct for Supreme Court justices,” Durbin said.

A number of the justices’ spouses have received growing scrutiny in recent months as trust plummeted.

Justice Clarence Thomas has faced condemnations from many Democrats over his wife’s support for overturning the 2020 election and Thomas’s participation in cases related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Months after the extraordinary leak of the high court’s draft majority opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade, a former anti-abortion leaker alleged that Justice Samuel Alito or his wife disclosed the decision in a 2014 high-profile decision about contraception and religious freedom. Alito has publicly denied the claim, and The Hill has not corroborated the allegation.

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