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“Friends of the Court” Wins Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting

The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism announced Monday that ProPublica won the 2024 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting for its series, “Friends of the Court.” The award, according to the school, “underscores the importance of investigative journalism as a cornerstone of democratic society — and the value of accountability for governments, non-government organizations and private corporations.”

The judges described the series as having “exposed the most serious ethical scandal in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court, revealing lavish travel and financial support that wealthy businessmen provided to the court’s current longest-serving justice.” ProPublica’s Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, Brett Murphy, Alex Mierjeski and Kirsten Berg contributed to the series.

In response to the reporting, the Supreme Court announced in November that it had unanimously adopted the first ethics code in its 234-year history, and Justice Clarence Thomas for the first time acknowledged that he should have reported selling real estate to billionaire Harlan Crow in 2014. Writing in his annual financial disclosure form, Thomas said he “inadvertently failed to realize” that the deal needed to be publicly disclosed. Thomas also disclosed receiving three private jet trips from Crow, two of which ProPublica reported on. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to authorize subpoenas of Crow and conservative legal activist Leonard Leo as part of the committee’s ongoing effort to investigate ethics lapses by justices.

Learn more about the Selden Ring Award.

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