No, Anti-Kavanaugh Obsessives, Attending A Holiday Party Does Not Constitute “An Appearance Of Impropriety” [Corrected]

Ooooh, scary! Politico reported that Justice Brett Kavanaugh attended a private holiday party last week at the home of Matt Schlapp, chairman of the Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC). Attendees included Stephen Miller, whose group America First Legal Foundation, it reported, “has interests in cases now pending before the court.”

Bloomberg Law seems to think social engagements over the holidays aree suspicious actions triggering “the appearance of impropriety” prohibitions all judges are told to avoid. They are not. The problem is that now there is a glut of committed ideologues determined to intimidate, neutralize and delegitimatize the Supreme Court, and to those biased critics, virtually anything a conservative justice does appears improper. In Kavanaugh’s case, unsubstantiated juvenile conduct while in high school was cited as sufficiently improper to overshadow his impeccable record as an adult judge.

Attending a party with people who “live, eat, and breathe conservative political action” is either reflective of a level of insensitivity to that development or indifference to it, says Charles Geyh, an Indiana University Maurer School of law professor. “This is the worst possible time for this,” he said. “That development” is the Court being unjustly and disingenuously attacked for legitimate and legally justifiable decisions that the Left hates. The prohibition against “the appearance of impropriety” means conduct that could be reasonably and objectively seen as improper, not conduct that partisan fanatics find convenient to call improper. Professionals like lawyers, politicians and judges should be capable of interacting socially with those they may disagree with, and there should be no adverse inferences from accepting a private party invitation. As the late Justice Scalia insisted, even Supreme Court Justices are entitled to a social life. If the job requires living like a cloistered monk, no one will want the job.

Justices should avoid contact of any kind with the actual parties in cases they consider. In contrast, individuals “with interests” in cases SCOTUS is deciding is a group including almost everyone in Washington, D.C. Is anybody checking what holiday parties Justice Jackson or Sotomayor are attending? Being knee-jerk progressives and thus immune from ethical misconduct, I’m certain they only attend parties thrown by those they passionate disagree with on matters of law, society and humanity. Aren’t you?

Bloomberg’s reporter, Lydia Wheeler, makes her critical judgment about judicial and legal propriety despite not having a legal education nor, evidently, having a sufficient understanding of professional ethics. Thinking she has made a case for the Supreme Court justices having an ethics code, she really makes the case that they should not. Any formal code would be weaponized for political purposes, so that, just to pick a wild hypothetical out of the air, a justice attending a Christmas party would be attacked as unethical.

6 thoughts on “No, Anti-Kavanaugh Obsessives, Attending A Holiday Party Does Not Constitute “An Appearance Of Impropriety” [Corrected]

  1. So there is this call for a “code of ethics” for Supreme Court justices. This is yet one more example of left-wing extremism, and what I mean by that is that any such “code” will be expressly weaponized against the more conservative members of the Court by the media and the Democrats. Consider this from the article you linked:

    “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,” said Tonja Jacobi, a professor at Emory University School of Law.

    Especially now, given “the legitimacy of the court at the moment is taking a severe beating,” she said.

    A couple of points here:

    – Who gets to define what “actual ethical difficulties” or “appearance of an ethical conundrum” are? Given your post, Jack, on Giuliani and the apparent kangaroo court going on there, how can we trust the legal establishment, who is unerringly aligned with the Left, not to enforce any such code with the double-standard that they appear to approach the ethics of mere lawyers?

    – The court’s legitimacy is taking a beating because of unethical actions by the media, who decry every decision they don’t agree with as some kind of facially defective argument, no matter how well-reasoned or mainstream. Any “beating” the court is taking is because of completely biased media assaults not just on the rulings, but the justices making them. Apparently, ruling against the wisdom of the Left is not just error, but immoral and unethical, even impeachable, no matter what the subject.

    Given the above, there is no way the justices can cut this Leftist-concocted Gordian knot. Only by ruling in ways that the Left approves of will the reputation of the court be “restored,” and then only until the next ruling they find problematic.

    Then, this humorous passage:

    Rev. Robert Schenck said fuzzy ethics rules make it easy to forge relationships with and subtly influence Supreme Court justices.

    Schenck, whose allegations were first reported by The New York Times, said he recruited older, wealthy donors to befriend and influence justices who shared similar social interests and religious ideologies.

    Schenck’s allegations have been rebutted not just convincingly but comprehensively. But that doesn’t seem to matter to Bloomberg’s writer, who has never seen a conservative that he/she/xe/xir will believe regardless of the truth-challenged allegations against him. This gaslighting is exactly why trust in the Court has declined, and the media shows now inclination to stop bombarding the more conservative justices with invective and accusations while ignoring similar conduct from the more liberal members.

    The Supreme Court is right to thumb their nose at calls for a “code of ethics” that will be used to make service on the court intolerable to conservative members and inapplicable to liberals. Where were the calls for a “code of ethics” when Ruth Bader Ginsberg flagrantly violated normal judicial ethics by criticizing then-candidate Donald Trump publicly? There was media coverage, but it was subdued and apologetic. Imagine the outrage if Kavanaugh had publicly criticized candidate Biden?

    This is a completely one-sided argument, and it is made with shameless disregard by people who have no shame, nor concept of actual ethics.

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