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Amy Coney Barrett’s husband is representing Fox’s parent company in court

Yet another SCOTUS spouse is raising serious conflict-of-interest questions about whether judges should make their spouses’ work public.

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s husband Jesse Barrett is representing Fox Corporation in a defamation lawsuit, Rolling Stone reports. The managing partner of SouthBank Legal “represented a leading media company in a defamation lawsuit,” according to his website, citing Redmond v. Fox Television Station LLC.

The case, which lists Barrett as an attorney for Fox, stems from Illinois attorney Lavell Redmond’s claim in the lawsuit that Fox’s inaccurate reporting “directly led to Redmond’s arrest and wrongly charged with violating the Register’s reporting requirements of sex offenders.” The case is being argued in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, four levels below the United States Supreme Court.

Barrett had no legal obligation to disclose her partner’s client list on mandatory ethics forms, although attorneys say the Supreme Court’s ethics rules need serious improvements. The Barretts studied together at Notre Dame Law School for a year, each clerking for judges and making gigs in the private sector before Amy Coney Barrett found her way to the federal judiciary. Jesse Barrett then opened a DC office for his company just months after his wife was confirmed by the Supreme Court.

The curious practice of not disclosing potential conflicts of interest arising from a judge’s spouse was noted by Politico in 2022, writing that Justices Thomas, Roberts and Barrett all chose to keep details of their partners’ work outside leave their ethics forms.

The spouses of Supreme Court colleagues have also been in the news lately. Judge Alito’s wife was thrust into the spotlight amid discussions about waving a flag in support of efforts to overturn the 2020 election, when Alito told members of Congress that “(his) wife loves waving flags.” Judge Thomas’ wife played a significant role in those same efforts to overturn the election.

All three cases of spouses’ political involvement have raised ethical questions about the impartiality of the three judges, who make up half of the court’s conservative wing. Supreme Court watchdogs are concerned that growing conflicts and compromises over the justices’ ethics pose a crisis of legitimacy that calls for intervention.

“Either we simply accept a Supreme Court that is compromised beyond measure and where there is no recourse,” James Sample, a constitutional law professor at Hofstra University, previously told Salon. “Or the other branches have a constitutional duty and power to intervene and promote due process.”

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