Debate Magazine

Lets Get Rid of the Appearance of (and Actual) Corruption in the Supreme Court

Posted on the 17 November 2011 by Mikeb302000
The following story raises some very deep and troubling questions about our current Supreme Court Justices.  The LA Times Story below is not the only instance  where the Justices appear to have relationships, including financially benefiting from activities, that compromise their appearance of propriety, as shown here in the New York Times from earlier this year.
We should be pursuing removal of these two Justices from the bench, and we also should be pursuing adding a requirement that the Supreme Court abide by the same judicial rules of ethics as lower courts.  This is not an unreasonable thing to request of the members of a body that have so much power; rather this should be mandated precisely because of the power and authority of the courts.
I adamantly believe that the right is correct in that Justice Kagan should be recusing herself from participating in the Supreme Court decision on the health care reform legislation that the right likes to call Obamacare.  I will be surprised and disappointed if she does not do so; for her to participate would be very wrong.
But if both Justices Scalia and Thomas do NOT recuse themselves from participating in this SCOTUS decision, they should be removed from office for corruption.
Where the difference occurs is that Justice Kagan has a clear conflict of interest because of her role in the White House during the legislative process that produced the health care reform.  She absolutely cannot be an impartial person in this matter.
But Thomas and Scalia have personally BENEFITED, materially and substantially from their relationships with one side of the case, prior to the matter coming before the court. And now apparently DURING the time the matter has come before the court as well; there is a clear bias on their parts as well as profit.
Read the story below; apparently these two conservative Justices no longer consider it worth their while to even pretend to be unbiased or impartial.  Maybe they think the right is so used to crony capitalism, SuperPacs and dirty money, that no one will notice, or care.  They are beyond shame.
They are wrong on both counts. It's time they were off the bench, in disgrace. That disgrace should be shared by the people and entities which were willing to behave unethically, and by the Presidents who nominated them for the Supreme Court.
From the L.A. Times:

Scalia and Thomas dine with healthcare law challengers as court takes case

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks to a policy forum in Washington last month.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks to a policy forum in Washington last month. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

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By James Oliphant
November 14, 2011, 3:50 p.m.The day the Supreme Court gathered behind closed doors to consider the politically divisive question of whether it would hear a challenge to President Obama’s healthcare law, two of its justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, were feted at a dinner sponsored by the law firm that will argue the case before the high court.
The occasion was last Thursday, when all nine justices met for a conference to pore over the petitions for review. One of the cases at issue was a suit brought by 26 states challenging the sweeping healthcare overhaul passed by Congress last year, a law that has been a rallying cry for conservative activists nationwide.
The justices agreed to hear the suit; indeed, a landmark 5 1/2-hour argument is expected in March, and the outcome is likely to further roil the 2012 presidential race, which will be in full swing by the time the court’s decision is released.
The lawyer who will stand before the court and argue that the law should be thrown out is likely to be Paul Clement, who served as U.S. solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration.
Clement’s law firm, Bancroft PLLC, was one of almost two dozen firms that helped sponsor the annual dinner of the Federalist Society, a longstanding group dedicated to advocating conservative legal principles. Another firm that sponsored the dinner, Jones Day, represents one of the trade associations that challenged the law, the National Federation of Independent Business.
Another sponsor was pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc, which has an enormous financial stake in the outcome of the litigation. The dinner was held at a Washington hotel hours after the court's conference over the case. In attendance was, among others, Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican and an avowed opponent of the healthcare law.
The featured guests at the dinner? Scalia and Thomas.
It’s nothing new: The two justices have been attending Federalist Society events for years. And it’s nothing that runs afoul of ethics rules. In fact, justices are exempt from the Code of Conduct that governs the actions of lower federal judges.
If they were, they arguably fell under code’s Canon 4C, which states,A judge may attend fund-raising events of law-related and other organizations although the judge may not be a speaker, a guest of honor, or featured on the program of such an event.“
Nevertheless, the sheer proximity of Scalia and Thomas to two of the law firms in the case, as well as to a company with a massive financial interest, was enough to alarm ethics-in-government activists.
“This stunning breach of ethics and indifference to the code belies claims by several justices that the court abides by the same rules that apply to all other federal judges,” said Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause. “The justices were wining and dining at a black-tie fundraiser with attorneys who have pending cases before the court. Their appearance and assistance in fundraising for this event undercuts any claims of impartiality, and is unacceptable.”
Scalia and Thomas have shown little regard for critics who say they too readily mix the business of the court with agenda-driven groups such as the Federalist Society. And Thomas’ wife, Ginni, is a high-profile conservative activist.
Moreover, conservatives argue that it’s Justice Elena Kagan who has an ethical issue, not Scalia and Thomas. Kagan served as solicitor general in the Obama administration when the first legal challenges to the law were brought at the trial court level. Her critics have pushed for Kagan to recuse herself from hearing the case, saying that she was too invested in defending the law then to be impartial now. Kagan has given no indication she will do so.

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