|Friendship of Justice and Magnate Puts Focus on Ethics by Mike Mcintire of nytimes.com|
New York Times investigative reporter Mike McIntire penned a hit piece on Justice Clarence Thomas for Sunday’s front page, trying to find a controversy in the funding by a friend of Thomas of a cultural museum in the justice’s hometown of Pin Point, Ga.: “The Justice and the Magnate – Friendship and Museum Project Put Focus on Ethics.” But looking past the loaded headline and lacings of ominous word choices like "ethically sensitive," one is hard-pressed to find any hints of actual wrongdoing on the part of Justice Thomas.” Whelan pointed to a double standard in Supreme scrutiny and challenged anyone “to argue that Thomas’s friendship with, and generous favors from, someone who has had no interest in cases before the Supreme Court is somehow more problematic than Ginsburg’s interaction with the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.”
Prominently placed, hostile investigations of conservative-friendly groups (that lead nowhere) are a specialty of McIntire’s. His front-page story from March 2011 accused a Tea Party group of pushing the agenda of an Indonesian corporation fighting U.S. tariffs. In September 2010 he went after the group Americans for Job Security, another group with Tea Party ties.
1. The Code of Conduct for United States Judges—which, as the article notes, does not formally apply to Supreme Court justices—sets forth canons of ethical conduct that are reasonably looked to, at least presumptively, as a benchmark for the conduct of justices (even if one reserves the possibility that those canons might apply somewhat differently to justices or that some of the sub-rules inevitably involve arbitrary line-drawing).
Canon 4 states that a “judge may engage in extrajudicial activities, including law-related pursuits and civic, charitable, educational [and other specified types of] activities,” but that “a judge should not participate in extrajudicial activities that detract from the dignity of the judge’s office, interfere with the performance of the judge’s official duties, reflect adversely on the judge’s impartiality, lead to frequent disqualification, or violate the limitations set forth [in Canon 4’s sub-rules].” Canon 4.C in turn states:
A judge may assist nonprofit law-related, civic, charitable, educational, religious, or social organizations in planning fund-raising activities and may be listed as an officer, director, or trustee…. Otherwise, a judge should not personally participate in fund-raising activities, solicit funds for any organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose.
[A]s this Los Angeles Times article from 2004 discusses, Ginsburg authorized the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund to name a lecture series after her—the “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Distinguished Lecture Series on Women and the Law”—and she “gave opening remarks” and introduced the speaker at the fourth installment of that series. The NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund took part (and, now rebranded as Legal Momentum, continues to take part) regularly in litigation before the Supreme Court: its database identifies its participation in a dozen or so merits cases during the first four years of the lecture series (including Lawrence v. Texas, Grutter v. Bollinger, and Gratz v. Bollinger), and a similar or higher level of participation in subsequent years (including Gonzales v. Carhart). Ginsburg took part in all those cases.…I likewise challenge anyone to argue that Thomas’s friendship with, and generous favors from, someone who has had no interest in cases before the Supreme Court is somehow more problematic than Ginsburg’s interaction with the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. via nationalreview.com
According to the LA Times article, legal ethicist Monroe Freedman said that Ginsburg’s affiliation with the lecture series “crosses the line,” and legal ethicist Geoffrey Hazard called it “inappropriate.” By contrast, legal ethicist Stephen Gillers called it “a judgment call.” For present purposes, I see no need to resolve whether Ginsburg acted unethically. My much more modest point is simply that nothing underlying even the wildest smears that the Left has directed against Thomas and Scalia comes anywhere close to Ginsburg’s conduct.
image via blog.reidreport.com
If there is anything that bothers me in the points McIntire raises, it is Ginny Thomas’s political fundraising.... Half of Washington knows this trick. Tom DeLay pioneered it when he started a foundation, told big donors to give money to it, and put his wife and daughter on its payroll. Others like Newt Gingrich soon followed suit. It may now be seem as standard operating procedure by DC types, but it is a sleazy maneuver, and at the very least public officials should be subject to full disclosure of their entire household income. via frontburner.dmagazine.com