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View Diary: Clarence Thomas: An (unreported) penny here, a penny there (246 comments)

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  •  Because if a business with ties to Heritage (7+ / 0-)

    came before the court with a case that would be potential conflict of interest. Wouldn't it? I can't imagine if HyperMegaGlobal Corp was owned by a Heritage Foundation member and that company had a case that went before the SCOTUS it wouldn't be seen as Clarence Thomas having at least the appearance of a conflict.

    I have a purpose in life, I am my cat's doorman.

    by ontheleftcoast on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 05:46:55 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  I kind of agree, ethically, but legally I (5+ / 0-)

      think that whole "Six Degrees of Separation" thing comes into play after only one or two degrees.  There's have to be a direct relationship of some kind, and even then as note above it's pretty well voluntary for SCOTUS.

      "Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage." - Confucius

      by IndieGuy on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 05:50:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I kind of doubt it (4+ / 0-)

      a conflict generally needs to be more direct than that.  Any kind of connection is not enough.  Thomas has to recuse if his wife's employer is a party, maybe if a board member ("Mr. Board Guy") of his wife's employer is a party.  But Mr. Board Guy can have other financial holdings.  He may own Widget Company, he may have a bunch of IBM stock, whatever. I don't think Thomas has to recuse if Widget Company or IBM is a party before him.

      Remember, recusal for SCOTUS justices is generally more narrow than most judges.  For the lower courts, if Judge A recuses himself, another Judge steps right in. That can't happen on the SCOTUS.  Recusal leaves the SCOTUS more open to a 4-4 "no decision" situation, and they don't like that. For that reason, the conflict needs to be pretty direct for a SCOTUS Justice to recuse him/herself.  

      •  recusal (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pris from LA, Just Bob, IndieGuy

        You say recusal is generally more anrrow than most judges.  I actually thought they didn't have to recuse themselves unless they chose to, to the extent that they make their own decisions.  Is that not correct?  

        I had heard of them recusing themselves if they had participated in the lower court decisions, but as I said originally, I'm no lawyer.

        •  It is true they make their own decisions (4+ / 0-)

          but they have certain ethical guidelines, which pretty much apply to when they have a direct contact with a party in a case, as I said.  

          If a justice had such a direct conflict -- like a close relative was a party -- the other party would certainly raise the issue if the Justice didn't recuse, I would think.  But they always recuse in cases of a direct conflict.  I've never seen a situation where we know about a direct conflict and the Justice involved has not recused.  More often, they recuse themselves and don't tell us why, so we are left to guess what the connection is.  

          If there was a situation with a direct conflict and a Justice made noises like he was not going to recuse (again, I've never seen it, as those situations are pretty clear and Justices ALWAYS recuse in that case), I am certain the other Justices would pressure him to do so.  

          •  how about (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Josiah Bartlett, Pris from LA

            Scalia being Cheneys hunting buddy and ruling on the energy meeting disclosure stuff? That should have been a recusal.

            •  Scalia published something on that (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              VClib, TerribleTom

              basically he said that judges don't recuse based on friendship.  And he's right about that.  I'm a lawyer, and judges are often -- very very often -- friends with the lawyers, or even the parties, that appear before them.  It happens especially in small towns, where if a judge had to recuse himself whenever he was a friend of somebody, he'd hear very few cases.  

              Maybe in a very, very close personal long-term friendship, like someone you grew up with, were inseparable with, was best man at your wedding -- that kind of thing might call for recusal.  But because it's so subjective, i.e., only the judge knows if his/her friendship with somebody will affect his/her decisions on the case, that kind of thing has to, necessarily, be left up to the discretion of the judge.  And so it is.  There's no ethical rule against deciding a case where friends are involved.  There can't really be, since friendship is subjective, and the only one who knows if the friendship is "close enough" to affect decision-making is the judge.  

              Most of the really clear cases for recusal are based on economic interests - the judge, or a spouse, will be affected financially in the outcome of the case -- or family relationships (a child, a spouse, a sibling is a party or works for a party, that kind of thing). After that, it's pretty nebulous.  

        •  the only time they are required to recuse (6+ / 0-)

          is when they have a direct financial interest in the outcome of the case.

          problem is, as coffeetalk says, the definition of financial interest is open to interpretation.  Does his wife's financial interest count?  Does marriage make her financial interests his financial interests?  A disclosure form asking for his wife's income seems to imply that they are.

          Clarence "may I live to see him impeached" Thomas.  Been a long time since I wrote that.

          "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
          I support Bob Massie for US Senate

          by TrueBlueMajority on Sun Jan 23, 2011 at 07:27:00 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Certainly his wife's DIRECT financial interest (4+ / 0-)

            counts.  Clearly, if the Heritage Foundation was a party, he would recuse.  Just as Justice Ginsburg would have recused herself if one of her husband's tax law clients was a party to a case.  But neither of them recuses because the spouse's employer has a position or view on an ISSUE before the Court.  No judge recuses on that basis.  Remember Judge Reinhardt on the 9th Circuit -- his wife was an ACLU director, and the ACLU had a definite position on Prop 8, but he (correctly) did not recuse himself from deciding the Prop 8 case, because, even though the ACLU had a very very definite opinion on the outcome of that case, the ACLU was not a party.

          •  Like to know here (3+ / 0-)

            how he doesn't know $200,000 a yr is coming into the household.  

            Is that what it takes to keep the liquor cabinet full, the hairdresser & plastic surgeon pd?  I can see $2,000 not making a ripple, but $200,000?  

            And what about her 'activities' with the Tea Party?

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