From The Appearance of Impropriety Files: Justice Scalia’s Hunting Trip

ScaliaCheney

A partyist, ignorant hack named Andrea Paysinger, who is banned from further commentary by the Ethics Alarms “too dumb and biased to contribute” rule, just wrote a comment to the Clinton-Lynch post making the typical ratioanalization-rotted argument that “all the brouhaha over this is ridiculous, childish on the part of all the RIGHT WING jerks who SAW NOTHING WRONG with JUSTICE SCALIA taking gifts and spending vacations PAID FOR by those who actually had cases coming up before SCOTUS AND NOT ONE FUCKING TIME DID HE RECUSE HIMSELF.”

I just love it when people accuse me of being a partisan hypocrite without bothering to check what I have written. As it happens, I wrote a great deal about Scalia’s infamous hunting trip, which I unequivocally condemned as creating the appearance of impropriety. (It was, however, factually less troubling than the Clinton-Lynch meeting, as Scalia and Cheney were never alone during the trip in question.) So for people like Andrea (though not Andrea herself, who won’t be able to get back on this site if she recruits an army of Myrmidons), I will hereby post the two Scalia essays, which currently reside only on the Ethics Scoreboard, now an archive of my ethics commentary prior to 2010.

Unfortunately, the site’s search function stopped working when I had to change platforms recently. If you want to check out the Scoreboard now, just use Google: type “Ethics Scoreboard” and the subject or topic. If there was commentary, you’ll find it.

To give due credit, Andrea did identify real hypocrisy on the Lynch issue. Many of the Democrats exposing themselves as corrupted by partisan bias by now trying to defend Lynch also furiously attacked Scalia’s appearance of impropriety. They—your idols, Andrea— have no integrity. I do.

Here was what I wrote about Scalia’s clear appearance of impropriety in 2004.

Good Judge Hunting: Antonin Scalia and the Cheney Case

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently went hunting with Vice President Cheney, even as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on whether the documents pertaining to Cheney’s meetings with energy company officials regarding future US energy policies must be made public. This has led to critics calling for Scalia’s recusal from the case, on the grounds that the social contact renders his objectivity in the matter suspect. Scalia, feisty as always, denies this, and maintains that he is fully capable of ruling objectively.

And I’m sure he is, but that’s beside the point. In the case of judicial independence, it is often appearances that count, and because this is an issue particularly charged with partisan passions, the Supreme Court must avoid any hint that cronyism or personal loyalties are playing a part in the outcome of the legal showdown. Scalia should remove himself from the case.

Justice Scalia has pointed out that personal friendships between the justices and Washington leaders are commonplace, and that mere friendships among professionals should not raise the specter of favoritism or bias. Indeed, had Scalia maintained exactly the same collegial relationship with Cheney, but avoided the hunting trip, there would be no issue. But the outing conjures images of male bonding and frank talk by the campfire (lobbying, perhaps?), and if Justice Scalia were to rule Cheney’s way (and Scalia’s past opinions would suggest that this is likely), the legitimacy of the ruling would be, in the eyes of many, tainted. But there is more.

According to the L.A. Times, Scalia was flown to the hunting reserve on the small jet that serves as Air Force Two. That could be interpreted as a gift to a judge from a pending litigant. The trip has value, and judges are not supposed to accept things of value under circumstances where it calls their objectivity into question. This alone would justify a recusal. And there’s a “strike three.”

The Times reports that the reserve where the duck hunting took place is owned by Wallace Carline, the head of Diamond Services Corp., an oil services firm that is on 41 acres of waterfront property in Amelia, La. The company provides oil dredging, pile driving, salvage work, fabrication, pipe-rolling capability and general oilfield construction. There is no indication that he has a direct stake in the case, but he is an energy executive. So we have a Supreme Court Justice ruling on whether materials should be released regarding the input of the energy industry into national energy policy in meetings held by the Vice-President, after he spends a hunting trip with the Vice-President, who has also provided charter jet transportation, at a hunting reserve where he is the guest of an energy executive.

Come on, Justice Scalia. Continue reading