Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
In an editorial opinion today, the editors deliver the closing argument, Scalia’s discredit to the court (excerpt):
For many Americans, the Supreme Court’s decision on President Obama’s health-care reform poses a keen test of legitimacy. In an atmosphere of intense partisanship, made more acute by a pending national election, can these five Republican-appointed justices and four Democratic-appointed ones pass judgment in a way that impresses most Americans as an act of law rather than politics? We have maintained that they can, or at least that the justices should enjoy a presumption of good faith. But the recent behavior of one member of the court, Justice Antonin Scalia, makes that presumption harder to sustain.
In dissenting from a court ruling that struck down all but one part of Arizona’s law on illegal immigrants, Justice Scalia strayed far from the case at hand to deliver animadversions on President Obama’s recent executive order barring deportation of people who entered the country illegally as children. Based on nothing more than news reports, Justice Scalia opined that this policy would divert federal resources from immigration enforcement, thus creating “the specter” of a “Federal Government that does not want to enforce the immigration laws as written, and leaves the States’ borders unprotected against immigrants whom those laws would exclude.”
This gratuitous outburst, regarding a matter that might someday come before the court as a legal case, followed Justice Scalia’s performance during oral arguments on health care, which included a wisecrack about striking down the “Cornhusker Kickback” — even though that infamous dollop of Medicaid money for Nebraska, allegedly inserted in return for the vote of that state’s senator, was no longer in the statute. He sneered that asking the justices to read the entire 2,700-page Affordable Care Act would violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. He launched into a muddled riff on an old Jack Benny comedy routine that became so protracted and distracting that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., amused at first, eventually had to declare “that’s enough frivolity for a while.”
[Justice Scalia's] lapses of judicial temperament — bashing “a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda” in a written dissent, or offering views on this and that in sarcastic public speeches — detract from the dignity of his office. They endanger not only his jurisprudential legacy but the legitimacy of the high court.
Centrist E.J. Dionne delivers the verdict of the Washington Post, Scalia must resign:
Justice Antonin Scalia needs to resign from the Supreme Court.
He’d have a lot of things to do. He’s a fine public speaker and teacher. He’d be a heck of a columnist and blogger. But he really seems to aspire to being a politician — and that’s the problem.
So often, Scalia has chosen to ignore the obligation of a Supreme Court justice to be, and appear to be, impartial. He’s turned “judicial restraint” into an oxymoronic phrase. But what he did this week, when the court announced its decision on the Arizona immigration law, should be the end of the line.
Not content with issuing a fiery written dissent, Scalia offered a bench statement questioning President Obama’s decision to allow some immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children to stay. Obama’s move had nothing to do with the case in question. Scalia just wanted you to know where he stood.
“After this case was argued and while it was under consideration, the secretary of homeland security announced a program exempting from immigration enforcement some 1.4 million illegal immigrants,” Scalia said. “The president has said that the new program is ‘the right thing to do’ in light of Congress’s failure to pass the administration’s proposed revision of the immigration laws. Perhaps it is, though Arizona may not think so. But to say, as the court does, that Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of federal immigration law that the president declines to enforce boggles the mind.”
What boggles the mind is that Scalia thought it proper to jump into this political argument. And when he went on to a broader denunciation of federal policies, he sounded just like an Arizona Senate candidate.
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As it happens, Obama has stepped up immigration enforcement. But if the 76-year-old justice wants to dispute this, he is perfectly free as a citizen to join the political fray and take on the president. But he cannot be a blatantly political actor and a justice at the same time.
Unaccountable power can lead to arrogance. That’s why justices typically feel bound by rules and conventions that Scalia seems to take joy in ignoring. Recall a 2004 incident. Three weeks after the Supreme Court announced it would hear a case over whether the White House needed to turn over documents from an energy task force that Dick Cheney had headed, Scalia went off on Air Force Two for a duck-hunting trip with the vice president.
Scalia scoffed at the idea that he should recuse himself. “My recusal is required if . . . my ‘impartiality might reasonably be questioned,’ ” he wrote in a 21-page memo. Well, yes. But there was no cause for worry, Scalia explained, since he never hunted with Cheney “in the same blind or had other opportunity for private conversation.”
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Then there was the speech Scalia gave at Switzerland’s University of Fribourg a few weeks before the court was to hear a case involving the rights of Guantanamo detainees.
“I am astounded at the world reaction to Guantanamo,” he declared in response to a question. “We are in a war. We are capturing these people on the battlefield. We never gave a trial in civil courts to people captured in a war. War is war and it has never been the case that when you capture a combatant, you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts. It’s a crazy idea to me.”
It was a fine speech for a campaign gathering, the appropriate venue for a man so eager to brand the things he disagrees with as crazy or mind-boggling. Scalia should free himself to pursue his true vocation. We can then use his resignation as an occasion for a searching debate over just how political this Supreme Court has become.
There was also, of course, the whole conflict of interest and unethical conduct of being a political speaker at a Koch brothers fundraiser, along with Justice Clarence Thomas, just before Citizens United v. FEC. Scalia and Thomas May Have Conflict of Interest, Common Cause Claims (Jan. 19, 2011):
When the conservative financier Charles Koch sent out invitations for a political retreat in Palm Springs later this month, he highlighted past appearances at the gathering of “notable leaders” like Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court.
A leading liberal group is now trying to use that connection to argue that Mr. Scalia and Mr. Thomas should disqualify themselves from hearing campaign finance cases because they may be biased toward Mr. Koch, a billionaire who has been a major player in financing conservative causes.
The group, Common Cause, filed a petition with the Justice Department on Wednesday asking it to investigate whether Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas should have recused themselves in the case, involving Citizens United, because of their attendance at past retreats organized by the conservative financier Charles Koch, whose company operates a foundation that is a major contributor to political advocacy groups.
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Common Cause said in its petition to the Justice Department that if either of the justices appeared before Mr. Koch’s group between 2008 and 2010, when the court was considering aspects of the Citizens United case, “it would certainly raise serious issues of the appearance of impropriety and bias.”
Mr. Koch and his brother, David Koch, were among the main beneficiaries of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case and became a favorite target of liberal groups, which accused them of effectively trying to buy the election.
If Justices Scalia and Thomas were mere federal judges they could not have accepted the invitation, because Canon 4(C) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges prohibits personal participation in fundraising activities. It states that judges should not “solicit funds for any organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose.”
The problem is that Supreme Court Justices are not bound by Canon 4(C). They are not subject to the canons of judicial ethics as are all other federal judges. Supreme Court Justices are subject only to their conscience and good character, which Scalia and Thomas have demonstrated are entirely lacking.