Ethics Dunce: Senator Chuck Schumer [CORRECTED]

“I want to tell you [Justice] Kavanaugh, I want to tell you [Justice] Gorsuch: You have unleashed a whirlwind, and you will pay the price.You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions!”

—–Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, sounding like Sonny Corleone, in front of the Supreme Court.

How many ways was this demagoguery wrong, as in spectacularly unethical? Let’s see:

  • Schumer  threatened Supreme Court justices, by name. What does “pay the price” mean, if not, “Just you wait, you’re gonna regret this!”

There is no possible justification for such ominous rhetoric

  • It is an attempt at intimidation as well as  encouragement to others to follow through on Schumer’s threat. This prompted Chief Justice Roberts into a making an unprecedented protest, as he wrote, “Statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous. All members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.”

Perfect.

Even addled Larry Tribe, the former Harvard Law School icon turned mad anti-Trump tweeter and conspiracy-monger, called Schumer’s outburst intolerable, tweeting,

These remarks by @SenSchumer were inexcusable. Chief Justice Roberts was right to call him on his comments. I hope the Senator, whom I’ve long admired and consider a friend, apologizes and takes back his implicit threat. It’s beneath him and his office.

Prof. Jonathan Turley joined the chorus and wrote, Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Month: Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch

“The real problem here is the increasingly common practice of trial courts ordering relief that transcends the cases before them. Whether framed as injunctions of ‘nationwide,’ ‘universal,’ or ‘cosmic’ scope, these orders share the same basic flaw—they direct how the defendant must act toward persons who are not parties to the case….

“Equitable remedies, like remedies in general, are meant to redress the injuries sustained by a particular plaintiff in a particular lawsuit. When a district court orders the government not to enforce a rule against the plaintiffs in the case before it, the court redresses the injury that gives rise to its jurisdiction in the first place. But when a court goes further than that, ordering the government to take (or not take) some action with respect to those who are strangers to the suit, it is hard to see how the court could still be acting in the judicial role of resolving cases and controversies. Injunctions like these thus raise serious questions about the scope of courts’ equitable powers under Article III”…

It has become increasingly apparent that this Court must, at some point, confront these important objections to this increasingly widespread practice. As the brief and furious history of the regulation before us illustrates, the routine issuance of universal injunctions is patently unworkable, sowing chaos for litigants, the government, courts, and all those affected by these conflicting decisions…

“If a single successful challenge is enough to stay the challenged rule across the country, the government’s hope of implementing any new policy could face the long odds of a straight sweep, parlaying a 94- to-0 win in the district courts into a 12-to-0 victory in the courts of appeal. A single loss and the policy goes on ice— possibly for good, or just as possibly for some indeterminate period of time until another court jumps in to grant a stay. And all that can repeat, ad infinitum, until either one side gives up or this Court grants certiorari.”

——Justice Neil Gorsuch, concurring in the grant of the stay of a nationwide injunction imposed by a district judge in New York against the implementation  of the Trump administration’s new immigration standards.

The new rules impose additional criteria for determining which potential immigrants  are likely to be dependent on the U.S. government for benefits  and therefore ineligible for green cards and eventual U.S. citizenship. These were proposed in October, 2019, but have been blocked by Democratic judges until today’s decision. Continue reading

Ethics Round-Up, 12/18/2019: The Day Before An Invasive Procedure Edition [UPDATED]

Yuck.

Even the satisfaction of knowing that the President reads Ethics Alarms, or at least thinks like I do…wait, that came out wrong. Anyway, today I expect to be uncomfortable, hungry and distracted, so who knows what might appear here today?

You were warned.

1. The Ethics Quote of the Day comes from ex-Marine and TV talk show host Montel Williams (who was very nice to me when I was on his show), on the “scandal” of some cadets flashing the dreaded “OK” sign during the Army-Navy Game:

 

“Both West Point and Annapolis are investigating, and it strikes me as defamatory that some in the media have branded these young people as racists without a shred of evidence. I understand that a handful of racists (perhaps living in their parents’ basements) attempted to co-opt the ‘OK’ sign as a symbol of white power … but that is not evidence that these kids were motivated by racial animus. We owe these young people, who had the courage to sign up to be part of the 1% who defend this democracy, better than this,”

I would say that we owe them better than even investigating such trivia. A ambiguous gestures are ambiguous, and no student, in a military academy or anywhere else  should have to defend or explain them. The students are entitled to the benefit of the doubt.  As with the “It’s OK to be White,” flyers, the rational, responsible approach by administrators is to ignore them, rather than to make a scandal out of nothing.

When will we see the first “It’s OK to make the OK sign” flyers? Heck, I may put some up myself…

2. Nah, there’s no progressive “war on Christmas,’ and there’s no mainstream media bias, either. And CNN’s Brian Stelter isn’t the most incompetent and absurd “media critic” since the term was coined! Imagine: Stelter asked on Twitter,

“Justice Neil Gorsuch is on “Fox & Friends” right now. The Q: How is it appropriate for a Supreme Court justice to try to goose sales of his three-month-old book by chatting on one of the most partisan shows on TV?”

More “Q’s”: Would it be appropriate for Gorsuch to chat on another network, like, say, CNN? Would “wtachdog” Stelter bitch about that? What does the level of partisanship of a show have to do with whether a Supreme Court Justice should appear there? Is there any rule or precedent holding that it is unethical for a sitting Justice to promote a book? (I’ll answer that one: no.)

Stelter’s whining wasn’t close to the most contrived objection to Gorsuch’s visit to the Fox and Friends couch, though. This was: Continue reading

Not Just Justice Gorsuch, Prof. Turley: The Entire Supreme Court Is Owed An Apology.

In an article yesterday in The Hill, Constitutional Law expert Professional Jonathan Turley proclaims that Justice Neil Gorsuch is  owed an apology by the Washington political establishment (meaning D.C. Democrats and progressives) which had labeled him a “rubber stamp” and a right wing ideologue in the course of its non-stop wailing about the loss of Obama nominee Merrick Garland, the victim of a ruthless bit of partisan maneuvering by Mitch McConnell. One would have thought that Gorsuch had conspired with “Cocaine Mitch.”

Turley (who testified on Gorsuch’s behalf, so his essay has more than a bit of a smug “I told you so!” ring), focuses particularly on yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling in U.S. v. Davis, in which Gorsuch joined to so-called liberal wing to strike  down an ambiguous law that allowed enhanced penalties for a “crime of violence.” Turley was impressed that Gorsuch squared off against Supreme Court rookie Bret Kavanaugh, whose dissent seemed to be based on a version of the “Everybody does it” rationalization, arguing that the statute was used in “tens of thousands of federal prosecutions” for over 30 years and calling it “surprising” that it should suddenly be ruled unconstitutional. Continue reading

SCOTUS: There is No Right To Be Executed Painlessly

Good.

Russell Bucklew’s   girlfriend broke up with him, so he threatened her. She ran to a neighbor’s house, but Bucklew chased her down. First he shot the neighbor dead. Then he beat his girlfriend and raped her. Police arrested him after a shootout, but Bucklew eventually escaped so he could attack his girlfriend’s mother with a hammer.

Bucklew was tried and convicted, then sentenced to death under Missouri law. Does this conduct, once proven in court, warrant the death penalty? Personally, I would prefer the bar to be set a bit higher, but I’m not disturbed, as a member of society, to be partially responsible for Bucklew’s demise. He made it clear that he has no intention of abiding by the social contract, and society has no obligation to let him keep breathing.

Two weeks before his schedule execution, Bucklew raised a medical condition as a unique barrier for the use on lethal injection on him, as described by the Court:

“Mr. Bucklew suffers from a disease called cavernous hemangioma, which causes vascular tumors— clumps of blood vessels—to grow in his head, neck, and throat. His complaint alleged that this condition could prevent the pentobarbital from circulating properly in his body; that the use of a chemical dye to flush the intrave- nous line could cause his blood pressure to spike and his tumors to rupture; and that pentobarbital could interact adversely with his other medications.”

Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Justice Neil Gorsuch

The Supreme Court today struck down a law that allowed the government to deport legal immigrants who commit certain kinds of crimes, ruling that the law was unconstitutionally vague. The vote was 5 to 4, with Justice Neil Gorsuch voting with the court’s left-leaning block. The case was Sessions v. Dimaya, first argued in January 2017 before the  eight-member court left vulnerable to deadlocks by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. And a deadlock it was,  4 to 4. The case was reargued last October after Justice Gorsuch’s confirmation again gave the Court a full contingent of nine.

The dispute concerned James Dimaya, a native of the Philippines who became a lawful permanent resident in 1992, when he was 13. In 2007 and 2009, he was convicted of residential burglary. The government sought to deport him under a law that made “aggravated felonies,” which the immigration law defined to include any offense “that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense,” justification for deportation.

In concurring with the majority opinion, authored by Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Gorsuch wrote that the law violated due process requirements by being unconstitutionally vague. “Vague laws,” he wrote, “invite arbitrary power.”

The interest here at Ethics Alarms isn’t whether the decision was right or wrong. It is that Gorsuch decided the case on the law and his view of it, not partisan loyalties, not knee-jerk cant, and not as a cog in a ideological block. In other words, he did what  judges, and especially Supreme Court Justices, are supposed to do, but which the news media, politicians, activists and those who neither understand nor respect the law always assume they don’t do: analyze each case according to the law and the facts, and decide without being influenced by political agendas.

Judge Gorsuch’s vote demonstrates his integrity, and speaks for the integrity of the entire Court and the judicial system. There were countless articles, when Gorsuch was nominated by President Trump, that represented him as an automatic reflex vote for whatever future results conservatives lusted for. This was an insult to Gorsuch, judges, the Court, and the United States.

You can read Gorsuch’s opinion here. Continue reading