POLITICO recently reported that Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh was spotted at a holiday party hosted by CPAC chair Matt Schlapp and attended by GOP glitterati, including SS uniform catalog model Stephen Miller, frenetic dancing canary Sean Spicer, renowned Venmo enthusiast Matt Gaetz, and far-right garden gnome Sebastian Gorka, among others.
Needless to say, that’s, at the very least, ethically questionable. But then the only way the Supreme Court could possibly lose more credibility is if they abandoned their venerable chamber in favor of a Hollywood Squares set and replaced Sonia Sotomayor with cyborg Paul Lynde.
You’d think a guy who’s best known for lying under oath about what “boof” means would be a paragon of judicial ethics, but you’d be wrong. Seems that Kavanaugh, whose SCOTUS robe almost certainly doubles as a keg koozie, isn’t just a fan of beer. He also likes to party with conservative activists who have a vested interest in numerous potential court decisions.
And that’s raised eyebrows among many court watchers.
Kavanaugh's social appearances have raised questions about the code of ethics on the Supreme Court and have legal experts wondering: at what point does a justice's personal relationships cross a professional line?
"Supreme Court justices should be extraordinarily careful in not only having no actual ethical difficulties but having no appearance of an ethical conundrum as well," Emory University law professor Tonja Jacobi told Bloomberg Law.
Jacobi added that the "legitimacy of the court at the moment is taking a severe beating," which is in line with data that shows people are losing faith in the judicial branch.
Kavanaugh’s social engagements are indeed worrying, but he’s hardly alone. In fact, we deserve answers about why so many of the court’s conservative justices are willing to socialize with people who are clearly inveigling them.
While justices rubbing elbows—and worse—with election deniers and other egregious characters is troubling enough, it appears to be de rigueur among this crowd, and part of a longstanding pattern.
Consider this POLITICO story from July:
The former leader of a religious right organization said he recruited and coached wealthy volunteers including a prominent Dayton, Ohio, evangelical couple to wine, dine and entertain conservative Supreme Court justices while pushing conservative positions on abortion, homosexuality, gun restrictions and other issues.
Rob Schenck, an evangelical minister who headed the Faith and Action group headquartered near the Supreme Court from 1995 to 2018, said he arranged over the years for about 20 couples to fly to Washington to visit with and entertain Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and the late Antonin Scalia.
Schenck, who was once an anti-abortion activist but broke with the religious right in the last decade over its aggressive tactics and support for gun rights, said the couples were instructed before the dinners to use certain phrases to influence the justices while steering clear of the specifics of cases pending before the court — for example, to “talk about the importance of a child having a father and a mother,” rather than engage in the particulars of a gay-rights case.
Want to know why you can’t get an abortion in Texas anymore? It may be because Samuel Alito simply didn’t get enough of the D.C. Harris-Teeter’s Gruyère, beluga caviar, and Pillsbury crescent rolls.
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But there’s more! In November, Rev. Schenck revealed to The New York Times that he’d reached out to Chief Justice John Roberts via a letter sent in July, after the Dobbs ruling.
In a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and in interviews with The New York Times, the Rev. Rob Schenck said he was told the outcome of the 2014 case weeks before it was announced. He used that information to prepare a public relations push, records show, and he said that at the last minute he tipped off the president of Hobby Lobby, the craft store chain owned by Christian evangelicals that was the winning party in the case.
Mr. Schenck’s allegation creates an unusual, contentious situation: a minister who spent years at the center of the anti-abortion movement, now turned whistle-blower; a denial by a sitting justice; and an institution that shows little outward sign of getting to the bottom of the recent leak of the abortion ruling or of following up on Mr. Schenck’s allegation.
Mr. Schenck, who used to lead an evangelical nonprofit in Washington, said he learned about the Hobby Lobby opinion because he had worked for years to exploit the court’s permeability. He gained access through faith, through favors traded with gatekeepers and through wealthy donors to his organization, abortion opponents whom he called “stealth missionaries.”
The minister’s account comes at a time of rising concerns about the court’s legitimacy.
Last week, Schenck testified before Congress about his role in corrupting the nation’s highest court.
Of course, at a time when Americans’ trust in the Supreme Court is at a historically low ebb—in no small part thanks to one justice being married to a bonafide insurrectionist—you’d think the six conservatives on the court would take care to keep their extracurriculars above board (or at least hidden).
But if the summer’s Dobbs decision is any indication, their arrogance and disdain for Americans’ rights know no bounds.
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As Charles Geyh, a professor at Indiana University’s law school, told Salon, “This is the worst possible time for this,” further noting that Kavanaugh’s decision to party with people who "live, eat, and breathe conservative political action" likely demonstrates his indifference to the way the court is currently perceived. Geyh added that Kavanaugh’s party plans were “at a minimum a poor idea and potentially a violation of judicial ethics."
Gee, ya think?
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Perhaps if you had a lifetime appointment that allowed you to send all the women who fought your nomination back into the Stone Age, you might feel like doing a little society-floutin’ of your own. If you were an asshole, that is. And you’re not.
But, clearly, Brett “Bart O’Kavanaugh” Kavanaugh is.
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