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The Supreme Party

© Rex Babin

Monday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia appeared at an event organized by the House Tea Party caucus and Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, but he didn’t attend the State of the Union address the following night. This has caused some people to claim that conservative justices don’t even feel the need to appear to be impartial. Supreme Court justices are supposed to be non-partisan.

In addition, Justice Clarence Thomas has been criticized because his wife organized a Tea Party event herself, which urged conservatives to fight for the repeal of Obama’s health care reform bill. Conservatives are trying to get the bill declared unconstitutional, and it is widely assumed that this issue will eventually come up before the Supreme Court, so it looks pretty bad to have the wife of a justice actively fighting against the bill.

Coincidentally, on Monday Thomas amended his financial disclosure form after Common Cause pointed out that on his then current form, Thomas had marked that his wife had no previous income, when in fact she had worked 11 years for the conservative Heritage Foundation, among other jobs totaling $686,589. All Federal judges are required by law to disclose income earned by their spouses. Thomas claimed that it was a simple mistake, but lying on disclosure forms can be prosecuted as a felony. I’m waiting for Thomas to claim that he was ignorant of the law.



  1. Dan wrote:

    I would rather have Scalia telling the meeting to follow the Constitution and read the Federalist papers, then have someone else suggest a “Second Amendment solution.”

    Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 2:40 am | Permalink
  2. starluna wrote:

    I actually don’t have a problem with a sitting justice answering questions about the Constitution, the process of legal decision making, etc to lawmakers. It would have been better if the organizers had invited more than one Justice. They do this kind of this all the time to all kinds of groups.

    I also don’t have a problem with the Justices having spouses that do political work. No one should be forced to give up their right to pursue professional opportunities because their spouse is a sitting Justice. But I do have a problem with Thomas lying on his disclosure forms. Unfortunately, there is no process in place to require that he recuse himself when HCR comes before the Court. And chances are, he won’t. Thomas is one of Clinton’s biggest mistakes.

    Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink
  3. Iron Knee wrote:

    Thomas was nominated by Bush I, not Clinton.

    While a spouse shouldn’t have to give up professional opportunities because they are married to a sitting justice, I think if a justice has a spouse who has a financial interest in a specific case, that justice should recuse himself from that case. That is a blatant conflict of interest. But apparently the law is murky on this one:

    Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink
  4. Sammy wrote:

    The House Tea Party Caucus is a partisan political (sub)organization. Is it appropriate for a (supposedly impartial) sitting Supreme Court Justice to speak to such a group?

    Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink
  5. starluna wrote:

    You are right. I don’t why I was thinking Clinton. I think that whole early 1990s period is just a blur to me these days. I see that whole period as one non-stop sex scandal.

    I agree that he should recuse himself. Scalia and Thomas should have recused themselves from several cases, most especially Citizens United for Thomas. It would be interesting to see what the reaction would be if Congress passed new laws to add more direction on recusal to the Judicial Code.

    Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink
  6. starluna wrote:

    I personally don’t think it is inappropriate for a Justice to do a talk and answer questions to any group, partisan or not. Ginsberg regularly talks to left-leaning women’s groups. Sotomayor has also spoken to left leaning Latino advocacy groups. Should she be banned from talking to the Hispanic Congressional caucus? If we were to restrict access to the Justices, we wouldn’t understand how they make their decisions. That would only foster the idea that their decision making is somehow some magical and unknowable by the rest of us, which doesn’t serve anyone. If anyone needs to know how the Supreme Court makes decisions, it is Congress.

    Scalia sees himself as a formalist. A rather twisted formalist in my opinion, but a formalist nonetheless. Hopefully he emphasized that lawmakers have an important responsibility in making their laws clear in order to reduce the amount of interpretation that is left up to the courts. Formalists prefer that statutes provide clear direction so that the legal decision making can enforce the will of the lawmaker.

    From what I’ve read, the Democratic lawmakers who attended this talk were just as satisfied as the Republicans.

    Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
  7. Sammy wrote:

    Thank you for the insight, Starluna. Good points.

    Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Permalink
  8. nathkatun7 wrote:

    The University that awarded Congresswoman Bachmann a law degree should be ashamed (Please don’t tell me it was Oral Roberts University). If the founding fathers (I suppose she included the Southern founding fathers who owned slaves) worked tirelessly to abolish slavery how come the country fought a civil war over slavery? Did the law school that granted Bachmann a law degree fail to teach, or even mention, the 1857 Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision? If everyone who came to America was welcomed as equal, regardless of race, then why was it necessary to pass three Constitutional Amendments: the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth? Did Rep. Bachmann learn any thing about the Jim Crow period that ushered in legal segregation of the races in the Southern States? Is it possible that the college and the law school she attended omitted any mention of the Supreme Court’s “Plessy v. Ferguson” decision? I have a sneaking suspicion that, Rep. Bachmann, a college educated and a lawyer, is not that ignorant. Rather, she seems determined to re-write history to conform with teabaggers’ claims that their mission is to restore the ideals of the pure and blameless founding fathers.

    Who is dumber?; Michelle for saying the Founding Fathers eliminated slavery, or Sarah for saying that the Soviet Union collapsed because of Sputnik. What do you think?

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    The less I think about Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, the better!

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 4:25 am | Permalink