Published on: Saturday, January 1, 2022

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts pledged Friday to improve ethics training and bolster internal compliance systems for the federal judiciary, citing a Wall Street Journal investigation that found hundreds of instances where judges presided over cases involving companies in which they or their relatives held stock.

“Let me be crystal clear: the Judiciary takes this matter seriously. We expect judges to adhere to the highest standards, and those judges violated an ethics rule,” the chief justice said in his year-end report, which traditionally is published on Dec. 31 and includes statistics regarding the federal courts’ caseload.

In a statistical appendix, the year-end report said the federal court caseload fell across the board in 2021 compared with the previous year, including an 8% drop in appellate filings to 44,456 from 48,190.

The chief justice did not mention President Biden’s commission on reforming the Supreme Court or react to nascent congressional proposals to make drastic changes, such as expanding the number of justices or ending their lifetime tenure. But he said the judiciary’s independence is best maintained by remaining free of interference from the political branches.

While coronavirus cases are surging, Roberts mentioned the pandemic only briefly. Last year, Roberts’ annual report focused on the pandemic’s impact on federal courts, with Roberts praising the work of judicial branch personnel during the pandemic.