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. rafflaw,

    Regarding, “I wouldn’t hold my breath on any Texas organization actually following the Constitution or Federal laws.”

    No disagreement on that point.

    I said the following at the end of my last comment:

    “No accountability at the top, so I’m guessing the TX board with follow suit. I’ll be pleasantly surprised, if it doesn’t.”

    And I’m not expecting any pleasant surprises…

  2. Elaine,
    Rowan and Martin were fantastic! Great clip. It really takes me back.
    anon nurse,
    I wouldn’t hold my breath on any Texas organization actually following the Constitution or Federal laws.

  3. I’ll try again

    Antonin Scalia agrees with the tea party that the 17th amendment needs to be repealed.

  4. On the topic of torture, it will be interesting to see how the following turns out…

    Texas psychologist accused of orchestrating Bush torture tactics
    November 17, 2010 at 9:33 am

    by My Nguyen

    “The Texas State Board of Psychologists will hear a complaint brought against Dr. James E. Mitchell, alleging that he was instrumental in shaping the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used under the Bush administration in the “war on terror.” The complaint states that this is in clear violation of the profession’s rules and Dr. Mitchell’s license as a psychologist should be revoked.” (full story)

    No accountability at the top, so I’m guessing the TX board with follow suit. I’ll be pleasantly surprised, if it doesn’t.

  5. For all you folks who remember Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In:


  6. For my information and for others:

    Judicial Code of Conduct:

    Canon 7. A Judge Shall Refrain From Political Activity
    A. A judge shall not:

    (1) act as a leader or hold any office in a political organization;

    (2) make speeches for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office;

    (3) attend political functions that are likely to be considered as being political in nature;

    (4) solicit funds or pay an assessment or make a contribution to a political organization or candidate, or purchase tickets for political party dinners or other functions;

    B. A judge shall resign from office when the judge becomes a candidate for an elective public office or for a nomination thereto.

    C. A judge shall not otherwise engage in any political activity.

  7. This is in no way surprising. The Republican right wingers have always very pointedly intended to politicize the judiciary to the maximum extent possible. They are as openly corrupt as any Roman Senators prior to the collapse of the empire. Their bold move on behalf of the Republican Party in 2000 in illegaly installing a president of their preference engendered a justifiably hostile public reaction so they laid relatively low until the Citizens United decision which was nakedly partisan and done in reaction to the 2008 election. The right wing extremists on the court feared Republicans and especially extreme right Republicans might not be able to compete any longer so they exploded a century of law and opened the flood gates of corporate money into our elections. That they openly attend fundraisers for extremist organizations on the right is part and parcel of their openly corrupt approach to dismembering the past 100 years or so of legal evolution that helped the nation keep pace with the modern world which they despise and fear. If they could figure out a way to reinstitute slavery I’m sure they would do so. They take what amounts to open bribes by having their spouses and children work for right wing extremist organizations and are thus rewarded for their yeoman’s work on behalf of the Republican right. All the Republican justicies should be impeached.

  8. At the end of the 60 Minutes interview about torture, Scalia said, “…anyway, that’s my view, and it happens to be correct.”

    Why does the book, “The Sociopath Next Door” come to mind?

    (The smile is telling, IMHO.)

  9. Dredd wrote: “All this will not end well.”

    I was skimming through the comments and Dredd’s comment stopped me…

    I don’t know how we’re going to turn this around… It’s bad out there. They (whoever “they” are) already have their boots on the ground in our communities. The vulnerable are already being targeted…

    No hyperbole… None. Zip. We’re in trouble.

  10. Darfurdeng – welcome to America, not sure how it is the the hell hole you came from but in this country every defendant has the right to legal consul. The decision as to the charges are not to be made by a lawyer before the trial. If Mr. Turley chooses to take a client who is (or who has just been painted as) ethically challenged it does not reflect poorly on him. Instead it reflects well that he is able to put aside that opinion to do what is right for this country and our courts. If you were charged you would want no less.

    OTOH, fund raising for political groups, announcing your opinion on a case BEFORE hearing it and calling the POtUS a liar during the SOtU address (particularly when you are spectacularly wrong & he his right) do demonstrate a lack of ethical standards that should not be accepted on the USSC.

  11. For someone who has a track record of defending some of the most unethical people in the country, your words come across as nothing more than hypocritical gutter muck garbage Dr. Turley. If you chose to be a hypocrite, which you are, then that is your right. However, if you chose without evidence to accuse someone else of being unethical, I suggest you start with the unethical hypocrite in your mirror.

  12. Not to mention that Scalia was Dick Cheney’s hunting buddy while he ruled the bench and Cheney sat in the WH.

  13. What about the perenial conflicts of interest that Justice Thomas finds himself in due to his wife’s many and varied jobs on behalf of Republican causes? When he was confirmed to the Supreme Court their were questions raised at the time over conflicts due to his wife working for the Labor Dept. and her arguements against comparable-worth legislation. Or a few years later due to her work with then Congressman Dick Armey as Policy Analyst. Or in 2000 when his wife was working for the Bush camp collecting resumes for cabinet appointments while the Supreme’s were debating and deciding Bush v Gore? Throughout the Bush Administration she was the Heritage Foundation’s official White House Liaison. Or her outspoken work as founder of the Tea Party affiliated lobbying group Liberty Central whose goal is opposing what she called the “leftist tyranny” of President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats. Sure they are Ginni Thomas’ views and it is her right to express them. That said though, how glairing does a conflict of interest need to be for one of these ideologues to recuse himself from a case? Considering not only the attendance list but the corporate agenda of the Koch brothers twice-yearly conference with corporatist like the Kochs, Murdoch, Ailes, the Chamber of Commerce etc. how do they defend their atendance with a straight face? These are their friends, business associates and ideological brethren. They help raise money for their causes and lend their cooperation and credibility to their causes as well. Then they go back to their hallowed chambers and decide rulings such as Citizens United…but we’re not supposed to see a conflict here. Right.

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