Alito Criticized For Participation In Another Conservative Fundraiser

Last night on Rachel Maddow, I discussed the controversy over Supreme Court justices attending political fundraisers. Specifically, Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito have been criticized for their participation in such events. Most recently, Justice Samuel Alito was identified by Think Progress at a fundraiser for American Spectator. Alito reportedly said that “it’s not important” that he attends such events. I disagree.

Alito has previously attended Spectator dinner and actually was a headliner in 2008 at a dinner used to raise money for the conservative magazine. He has also previously headlined at the fundraising dinner for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). Justice Scalia and Thomas have also been criticized for attending fundraisers organized by conservative oil billionaires David and Charles Koch.

I have long criticized the new model of justices represented by Scalia, Thomas and others. I prefer the model of John Paul Stevens who followed the traditional approach of avoiding public speeches except for a narrow category of law schools and circuit speeches. In a prior column, I criticized Scalia for his past speeches at conservative organizations. I feel the same way about liberal justices like Justice Ginsburg appearing in such politically charged events. However, I am unaware of Ginsburg participating in fundraisers like this one.

The problem of jurists giving politically charged remarks is growing. It is not just justices. In 2004, Judge Guido Calabresi (who I have tremendous respect for as an academic and a judge) was criticized his remarks about George Bush at the American Constitutional Society.

There are no ethical rules preventing justices from participating in ideological events, including seminars. However, the Judicial Code of Conduct does state “a judge should not personally participate in fund-raising activities, solicit funds for any organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose. A judge should not personally participate in membership solicitation if the solicitation might reasonably be perceived as coercive or is essentially a fund-raising mechanism.” It appears that, while these justices did not personally fundraise, they did attend events to raise money for these politically active organizations. In that sense, I view some of these events as crossing the line. It is not, as has been suggested by some, enough for impeachment.

This is the type of violation that is usually resolved by the Chief Justice or Chief Judge in having a stern conversation with the individual. For Alito, one would think he would be loathe to be seen at such events after his poor performance during the Obama State of the Union. Yet, Chief Justice John Roberts not only did not appear to disapprove of this conduct, he appeared to defend it. What is clear is that Roberts is not carrying out his responsibility to protect the integrity of the Court by discouraging such entanglement with political organizations or fundraisers.

What I am most concerned about is the disregard shown in these appearances for the traditional model of justices avoiding the appearance of political advocacy and involvement. In my view, it certainly violates the spirit of the ethical rules and undermines the integrity of the institution.

50 thoughts on “Alito Criticized For Participation In Another Conservative Fundraiser”

  1. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer is scheduled to be the featured guest on next week’s Fox News Sunday.

  2. The federal Judicial Code of Conduct does not apply to Justices sitting on the the supreme court. I just learned this through a legal blog, went to look at the statute and lo and behold, the blog was correct. Check it out. The Code of Conduct applies to specifically named federal judges from circuit court on down, not the Supremes.

  3. These people somehow usurped the power to “appointed” a President without hardly a ripple. So I don’t see how this is going anywhere.

    This is the same court that said not only can the government use imminent domain to seize your property, so can PRIVATE parties!
    Again, hardly a ripple of outrage.

    Makes me wonder just what WOULD it take?!?!

  4. “I am sick of the Princeton Italo-Jew Cartel.”

    Yeah. That’s what happens when Machiavelli meets the Torah in New Jersey . . .

    Is your day job making up ridiculous screen villains, Sean?

    That was a rhetorical question.

  5. Seriously, what can be done to stop this conduct. Roberts is the Chief Justice so he should be admonishing Alito, but he himself is violating the same rules. Can these guys be shamed into stopping these appearances? Can law professors like Prof. Turley, respected lawyers, the ABA and who knows who else get together and write some letter published in the NYT, WAPO, WSJ bewailing the degredation of SCOTUS’s reputation? Very frustrating.

    PS the reference to the Princeton Italo Jew in the prior post is reprehnsible.

  6. On top of all of this, he mouthed off in front of our President during the State of the Union last year and he has already stated that he intends to boycott this year beecause he finds it “awkward” to sit there in front of the [black] President. Maybe he aught to take his ass back to Italy. I am sick of the Princeton Italo-Jew Cartel.

  7. TPDS,

    I’m of the opinion that Supreme Court Justices shouldn’t be in the habit of “teabagging” anyone–whether they’re Democrats, Republicans, Independents, members of the Green Party, Tea Party–or any other party. Supreme Court Justices are supposed to remain impartial–not be biased or partisan. I doubt you’d feel the same way if liberal judges attended events sponsored by the ACLU, NOW, left-wing/progressive groups.

  8. anon nurse and elaine

    Thanks. I’ve always been able to get the URL to copy, but it wouldn’t this time. Or rather it would copy, but nothing showed up after the submit!??!

    a n That’s the gist of the article I was trying to post. Thanks.

  9. I’m not entirely clear on what was going on at this “fund raiser” event, so I can’t comment on that….

    But, what clearly bothers me is that a few of these guys have apparently attended a “political policy/strategy” event – in this case, sponsored by the Koch Brothers. (For all I care, it could have been held by NOW or the NAACP – I don’t care about the bent.)

    The thing that really bothers me is the appearance that members of the court attended an event intended to coordinate political action to achieve certain political/policy aims. It would appear that the justices who attended had the opportunity to be told exactly what strategies were going to be pursued, which would appear to give them the opportunity to coordinate which cases they hear, how to rule on those cases and how to write their opinions in order to best coordinate with these broader strategies.

    I know it’s cliche, but I’ll say it anyway… THAT’S PRETTY MUCH THE DEFINITION OF AN ACTIVIST JUDGE. (or so it appears)

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