Never known for brevity, Justice Antonin Scalia issued one of his self-righteous opinions
today, 21 pages of patented huff-and-puffery filled with his signature mockery of those who see things differently than he. Unlike other Scalia opinions, this one has no legal status, but it might as well have, because the Supreme Court will let these stand as the last words on the subject.
: Scalia refused to recuse himself from the
filed against his buddy Bunker Dick Cheney for refusing to disclose information about secret Energy Task Force meetings the vice president held in 2001.
The litigants, Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club, sought to have Scalia take himself off the case because he had joined Cheney and 11 others for a January duck-hunting trip in Louisiana.
"While the political branches can perhaps survive the constant baseless allegations of impropriety that have become the staple of Washington reportage, this Court cannot. The people must have confidence in the integrity of the Justices, and that cannot exist in a system that assumes them to be corruptible by the slightest friendship or favor."
“I never hunted in the same blind with the vice president. …
"Nor was I alone with him at any time during the trip, except, perhaps, for instances so brief and unintentional that I would not recall them — walking to or from a boat, perhaps, or going to or from dinner. … Of course we said not a word about the present case …"
"If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined. …
"… political consequences are not my concern. . . . To expect judges to take account of political consequences--and to assess the high or low degree of them--is to ask judges to do precisely what they should not do."
- Antonin Scalia
January wasn’t the first time Scalia took a hunting trip with someone having pending business before the Court. In November 2001, he traveled on a state-owned plane to hunt pheasants with the governor of Kansas and the dean of University of Kansas School of Law, who happened to be the state’s attorney for the case in question.
The Code of Judicial Conduct,
the original dating back to 1922, provides guidelines for the behavior of judges on and off the bench. It places limits on both extrajudicial conduct and official judicial functions.
Avoiding Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All of the Judge's Activities
A. A judge shall comply with the law and should act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
B. A judge shall not allow any relationship to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall a judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge. A judge shall not testify voluntarily as a character witness.
Conducting the Judge's Extra-Judicial Activities to Minimize the Risk of Conflict with Judicial Obligations
A. Extra-Judicial Activities in General. A judge shall conduct all of the judge's extra-judicial activities so that they do not:
(1) cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act impartially as a judge …
For those too obtuse to comprehend guidelines, 28 USC 455
of federal law clarifies matters:
a) Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
(b) He shall also disqualify himself in the following circumstances:
(1) Where he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding …
And then there is the 1994 case of Liteky v. United States
, in which the Supreme Court ruling noted:
Subsection (a), the provision at issue here, was an entirely new "catch-all" recusal provision, covering both "interest or relationship" and "bias or prejudice" grounds, see Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corp., 486 U.S. 847 (1988) - but requiring them all to be evaluated on an objective basis, so that what matters is not the reality of bias or prejudice, but its appearance. Quite simply and quite universally, recusal was required whenever "impartiality might reasonably be questioned."
Writing those words for the majority in that case was … Antonin Scalia.