225px-ruth_bader_ginsburg_scotus_photo_portraitI have long been a critic of the Supreme Court justices engaging in public appearances where they hold forth on contemporary issues and even pending matters before the Court. I have been particularly critical of the late Justice Antonin Scalia and Associated Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who clearly relished appearances before ideologically supportive groups. I have called this trend the “rise of the celebrity justice.” Now, Justice Ginsburg has started another firestorm over public comments where she joked that she would move to New Zealand if Donald Trump is elected. Canon 5 of the judicial ethical rules expressly states that judges shall not “make speeches for a political organization or candidate, or publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for public office.” The problem is that the Court has long maintained that ethical codes are not enforceable against its members as opposed to every other jurist in the country. This absurd position has continued because Congress has failed to act, something that I have previously criticized. Ginsburg’s statements this week reflects the continued sense of impunity enjoyed by justices who violate the core maxim that “no man shall be the judge of his own case.” The justices are the judges of their own ethical cases and they show vividly why that is a dangerous and corrupting power.

Ginsburg left no question as to her opposition to Donald Trump. She stated “I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.” She then added a reference to something that her husband, Martin D. Ginsburg, said: “‘Now it’s time for us to move to New Zealand.”

The sense of impunity reflected in Ginsburg interview was equally evident in her criticism of the GOP for failing to act on President Obama’s nominee to the Court and her defense of Obama’s right to get things done in his final year. She also clearly endorsed the qualification of nominee Judge Merrick B. Garland.

In my view it was a thoughtless and unethical exchange for any jurist. It undermined the integrity of the Court and demonstrates the lunacy of a Court that maintains that justices must be their own judges of ethical misconduct. In the past, justices have dismissed ethical rules like they are pesky matters for lesser jurists. Various justices have ruled in cases where they have clear financial interests. Justices also speak publicly on matters before the Court — thrilling ideological groups. Others have been accused of reporting violations. Others have appeared at political fundraisers.  Many justices have embraced the celebrity status by appearing before a type of ideological base where they throw red meat to ecstatic liberal or conservative groups. This includes speaking on issues before or coming to the Court.  It has to end. Congress has to act.

I have long favored the tradition model of jurists like former Justice John Paul Stevens who spoke primarily through his opinions and avoided public speeches of this kind.  That should be the price of the ticket to be a member of this Court.  If you want to be a celebrity, other professional opportunities can be easily pursued.  If you want to be one of nine, you should speak through your opinions.

So the answer to the question above is that Ginsburg did violate the principle underlying Canon Five  but it doesn’t matter. For just nine jurists, judicial ethics remains a purely advisory set of rules that are often honored in the breach.


  1. Yes, Ginsberg crossed an ethics line, but ethics to Ginsberg and most other supreme justice’s is what they say it is having long ago abandoned the original understanding of The United States Constitution in favor of an interpretation fulfilling their own personal feelings.

    When they began to make laws (not their job) and Congress failed to remind them they were a group of unelected officials not authorized to make law, the hypnotic power of that black robe led them to mistakenly believe they are the law.

    Ginsberg has spent her entire life obsessed with the issues of women, she is an expert at reaching into space and finding constitutional support for anything women can dream up. I think HRC is a female so anyone, especially Trump, who is an enemy of HRC is an enemy of Ginsberg and deserves to be lashed to a tree and whipped.

  2. Whaddya known, Justice Ginsburg apologized for her premature, degrading comments directed at Trump. Was she not, in FBI’s Comey’s words, “extremely careless?” Should we not consider her a judicial, partisan, ideologue? Has her blockheaded comments not put into question her ability to impartially make legal judgements based on evidence? In short, is there not a pattern, in politics, where many sympathetic to liberal, progressive, causes are less than objective?

  3. DavidM,

    Scalia and his accomplices on the Court legalized bribery and ensured that the enslavement of the American people will continue unchecked.

  4. Warspite,

    As Lawrence O’Donnell points out, there is a long history of Supreme Court justices have participating in politics. In fact, Salmon P. Chase ran for president twice while serving as Chief Justice. Many people have wondered how he could have ethically taken part in cases brought before the Court by administrations that defeated him electorally, but he did. And you’ve never even knew Salmon P. Chase was a person.

  5. Actually, Juliet, Alito spoke out against Obama and in favor of Romney ahead of the 2012 presidential election. That’s where the crickets are really chirping. The guy who complained about the MSM ignoring Ginsburg’s remarks apparently doesn’t read much beyond this blog: The New York Times criticized Justice Ginsburg for her statements. Way to stay informed, buddy.

    In terms of ethical violations, Justice Ginsburg doesn’t even compare to the transgressions of her contemporaries:

    Thomas refused to recuse himself from Exxon v. Baker even though he held stock in the oil company. Not surprisingly, he voted to severely reduce the judgement awarded to compensate business owners and citizens who were economically harmed by oil companies negligent behavior.

    Thomas again withheld disclosure that his wife received $750,000 from parties with cases before the Court.

    And Thomas, along with Scalia, have accepted financial considerations, including cash and all expense paid vacations, for giving speeches to interest groups and at corporate getaways, groups that had or likely will have cases before the Court.

    In fact, Scalia was flown out to the retreat where he died on a private jet owned by a litigant in an upcoming case before the Court.

    Those examples and more are far more egregious than Ginsburg’s comments. There is no chance of the results of this election coming before the Court because Trump is going to be trounced.

    Only a chump believes in Trump.

  6. Of course she violated her Canons, in addition to precedent and tradition. But it doesn’t matter since you will not find any of the brave legal warriors on the left making a formal bar complaint or JQC type of complaint.

  7. Good analysis, JT, as usual.
    What if this had been Thomas or Alito speaking out against Clinton?
    Food for thought, indeed.

  8. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/15/us/politics/15judge.text.html?_r=0

    “A Latina Judge’s Voice”

    By Sonia Sotomayor

    Judge Reynoso, thank you for that lovely introduction. I am humbled to be speaking behind a man who has contributed so much to the Hispanic community. I am also grateful to have such kind words said about me.

    I am delighted to be here. It is nice to escape my hometown for just a little bit. It is also nice to say hello to old friends who are in the audience, to rekindle contact with old acquaintances and to make new friends among those of you in the audience. It is particularly heart warming to me to be attending a conference to which I was invited by a Latina law school friend, Rachel Moran, who is now an accomplished and widely respected legal scholar. I warn Latinos in this room: Latinas are making a lot of progress in the old-boy network.

    I am also deeply honored to have been asked to deliver the annual Judge Mario G. Olmos lecture. I am joining a remarkable group of prior speakers who have given this lecture. I hope what I speak about today continues to promote the legacy of that man whose commitment to public service and abiding dedication to promoting equality and justice for all people inspired this memorial lecture and the conference that will follow. I thank Judge Olmos’ widow Mary Louise’s family, her son and the judge’s many friends for hosting me. And for the privilege you have bestowed on me in honoring the memory of a very special person. If I and the many people of this conference can accomplish a fraction of what Judge Olmos did in his short but extraordinary life we and our respective communities will be infinitely better.

    I intend tonight to touch upon the themes that this conference will be discussing this weekend and to talk to you about my Latina identity, where it came from, and the influence I perceive it has on my presence on the bench.

    Who am I? I am a “Newyorkrican.” For those of you on the West Coast who do not know what that term means: I am a born and bred New Yorker of Puerto Rican-born parents who came to the states during World War II.

    Like many other immigrants to this great land, my parents came because of poverty and to attempt to find and secure a better life for themselves and the family that they hoped to have. They largely succeeded. For that, my brother and I are very grateful. The story of that success is what made me and what makes me the Latina that I am. The Latina side of my identity was forged and closely nurtured by my family through our shared experiences and traditions.

    For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandules y pernil – rice, beans and pork – that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events. My Latina identity also includes, because of my particularly adventurous taste buds, morcilla, — pig intestines, patitas de cerdo con garbanzo — pigs’ feet with beans, and la lengua y orejas de cuchifrito, pigs’ tongue and ears. I bet the Mexican-Americans in this room are thinking that Puerto Ricans have unusual food tastes. Some of us, like me, do. Part of my Latina identity is the sound of merengue at all our family parties and the heart wrenching Spanish love songs that we enjoy. It is the memory of Saturday afternoon at the movies with my aunt and cousins watching Cantinflas, who is not Puerto Rican, but who was an icon Spanish comedian on par with Abbot and Costello of my generation. My Latina soul was nourished as I visited and played at my grandmother’s house with my cousins and extended family. They were my friends as I grew up. Being a Latina child was watching the adults playing dominos on Saturday night and us kids playing loteria, bingo, with my grandmother calling out the numbers which we marked on our cards with chick peas.

    Now, does any one of these things make me a Latina? Obviously not because each of our Carribean and Latin American communities has their own unique food and different traditions at the holidays. I only learned about tacos in college from my Mexican-American roommate. Being a Latina in America also does not mean speaking Spanish. I happen to speak it fairly well. But my brother, only three years younger, like too many of us educated here, barely speaks it. Most of us born and bred here, speak it very poorly.

    If I had pursued my career in my undergraduate history major, I would likely provide you with a very academic description of what being a Latino or Latina means. For example, I could define Latinos as those peoples and cultures populated or colonized by Spain who maintained or adopted Spanish or Spanish Creole as their language of communication. You can tell that I have been very well educated. That antiseptic description however, does not really explain the appeal of morcilla – pig’s intestine – to an American born child. It does not provide an adequate explanation of why individuals like us, many of whom are born in this completely different American culture, still identify so strongly with those communities in which our parents were born and raised.

    America has a deeply confused image of itself that is in perpetual tension. We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and in adding richness to its existence. Yet, we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race and color-blind way that ignore these very differences that in other contexts we laud. That tension between “the melting pot and the salad bowl” — a recently popular metaphor used to described New York’s diversity – is being hotly debated today in national discussions about affirmative action. Many of us struggle with this tension and attempt to maintain and promote our cultural and ethnic identities in a society that is often ambivalent about how to deal with its differences. In this time of great debate we must remember that it is not political struggles that create a Latino or Latina identity. I became a Latina by the way I love and the way I live my life. My family showed me by their example how wonderful and vibrant life is and how wonderful and magical it is to have a Latina soul. They taught me to love being a Puertorriqueña and to love America and value its lesson that great things could be achieved if one works hard for it. But achieving success here is no easy accomplishment for Latinos or Latinas, and although that struggle did not and does not create a Latina identity, it does inspire how I live my life.

    I was born in the year 1954. That year was the fateful year in which Brown v. Board of Education was decided. When I was eight, in 1961, the first Latino, the wonderful Judge Reynaldo Garza, was appointed to the federal bench, an event we are celebrating at this conference. When I finished law school in 1979, there were no women judges on the Supreme Court or on the highest court of my home state, New York. There was then only one Afro-American Supreme Court Justice and then and now no Latino or Latina justices on our highest court. Now in the last twenty plus years of my professional life, I have seen a quantum leap in the representation of women and Latinos in the legal profession and particularly in the judiciary. In addition to the appointment of the first female United States Attorney General, Janet Reno, we have seen the appointment of two female justices to the Supreme Court and two female justices to the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court of my home state. One of those judges is the Chief Judge and the other is a Puerto Riqueña, like I am. As of today, women sit on the highest courts of almost all of the states and of the territories, including Puerto Rico. One Supreme Court, that of Minnesota, had a majority of women justices for a period of time.

    As of September 1, 2001, the federal judiciary consisting of Supreme, Circuit and District Court Judges was about 22% women. In 1992, nearly ten years ago, when I was first appointed a District Court Judge, the percentage of women in the total federal judiciary was only 13%. Now, the growth of Latino representation is somewhat less favorable. As of today we have, as I noted earlier, no Supreme Court justices, and we have only 10 out of 147 active Circuit Court judges and 30 out of 587 active district court judges. Those numbers are grossly below our proportion of the population. As recently as 1965, however, the federal bench had only three women serving and only one Latino judge. So changes are happening, although in some areas, very slowly. These figures and appointments are heartwarming. Nevertheless, much still remains to happen.

    Let us not forget that between the appointments of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981 and Justice Ginsburg in 1992, eleven years passed. Similarly, between Justice Kaye’s initial appointment as an Associate Judge to the New York Court of Appeals in 1983, and Justice Ciparick’s appointment in 1993, ten years elapsed. Almost nine years later, we are waiting for a third appointment of a woman to both the Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals and of a second minority, male or female, preferably Hispanic, to the Supreme Court. In 1992 when I joined the bench, there were still two out of 13 circuit courts and about 53 out of 92 district courts in which no women sat. At the beginning of September of 2001, there are women sitting in all 13 circuit courts. The First, Fifth, Eighth and Federal Circuits each have only one female judge, however, out of a combined total number of 48 judges. There are still nearly 37 district courts with no women judges at all. For women of color the statistics are more sobering. As of September 20, 1998, of the then 195 circuit court judges only two were African-American women and two Hispanic women. Of the 641 district court judges only twelve were African-American women and eleven Hispanic women. African-American women comprise only 1.56% of the federal judiciary and Hispanic-American women comprise only 1%. No African-American, male or female, sits today on the Fourth or Federal circuits. And no Hispanics, male or female, sit on the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, District of Columbia or Federal Circuits.

    Sort of shocking, isn’t it? This is the year 2002. We have a long way to go. Unfortunately, there are some very deep storm warnings we must keep in mind. In at least the last five years the majority of nominated judges the Senate delayed more than one year before confirming or never confirming were women or minorities. I need not remind this audience that Judge Paez of your home Circuit, the Ninth Circuit, has had the dubious distinction of having had his confirmation delayed the longest in Senate history. These figures demonstrate that there is a real and continuing need for Latino and Latina organizations and community groups throughout the country to exist and to continue their efforts of promoting women and men of all colors in their pursuit for equality in the judicial system.

    This weekend’s conference, illustrated by its name, is bound to examine issues that I hope will identify the efforts and solutions that will assist our communities. The focus of my speech tonight, however, is not about the struggle to get us where we are and where we need to go but instead to discuss with you what it all will mean to have more women and people of color on the bench. The statistics I have been talking about provide a base from which to discuss a question which one of my former colleagues on the Southern District bench, Judge Miriam Cederbaum, raised when speaking about women on the federal bench. Her question was: What do the history and statistics mean? In her speech, Judge Cederbaum expressed her belief that the number of women and by direct inference people of color on the bench, was still statistically insignificant and that therefore we could not draw valid scientific conclusions from the acts of so few people over such a short period of time. Yet, we do have women and people of color in more significant numbers on the bench and no one can or should ignore pondering what that will mean or not mean in the development of the law. Now, I cannot and do not claim this issue as personally my own. In recent years there has been an explosion of research and writing in this area. On one of the panels tomorrow, you will hear the Latino perspective in this debate.

    read the rest of this garbage at the link

  9. Fuster, people like you are why this country is falling apart. You are hypocrites. But the Left thrives on being hypocrites.

    A Supreme Court Justice, currently sitting, has said that he race influences her decisions. Hows that grab ya pal?

    and btw the judge that Trump commented on, is a member of La Raza. A Spanish Pride group. But Im sure you are ok with any race having a racial pride group, except whites, because that would be racist right?


    Judge Presiding Over Trump University Case Is Member Of La Raza Lawyers Group

  10. Ginsburg just doubled down and launched a bunch of insults at Trump.

    She is a disgrace to the Supreme Court


    Ruth Bader Ginsburg back on the warpath as she calls Trump a ‘faker’ and insists he release his tax returns – but Trump says she’s ‘a disgrace’ and ‘I would hope that she would get off the court as soon as possible!’

    Ginsburg said last week that she ‘can’t imagine’ Donald Trump as president
    Added Tuesday that Trump is ‘a faker’ who should release his tax returns
    Trump shoved back, saying interference with a presidential election is ‘a disgrace’ coming from a Supreme Court justice
    Said Ginsburg ‘should apologize to the court’
    Court watchers fret about whether Ginsburg’s unorthodox opining would require her to recuse herself from any high-court case involving Trump

  11. The integrity bus left Washington years ago Mr Turley — probably small buses were used when Clinton and Bush were in office — under the present folks  — it took a large convoy to get the rest of it out of town — and I don`t see it returning very soon.Am I discouraged ? — no — as long as there are people like you fighting the good fight — will you win? — no — but you will slow down the destruction and the taking over of the country by the bad guys —  am I disappointed? — yes –very.Under the present Rulers — I see orchestrated destruction everywhere. Especially with race. Could I be wrong in what I see? — of course — and I hope I am wrong.My time here is short — that is good — but my heart goes out to people in your age group and younger — you will not miss the reorganization of America.  Again — I hope I am wrong — we will know in December or January 2017 for sure — if the newly elected president is seated.Jim Kuden PS — Thank you very much for your letter every day — it is great !! 

    WordPress.com | jonathanturley posted: “I have long been a critic of the Supreme Court justices engaging in public appearances where they hold forth on contemporary issues and even pending matters before the Court. I have been particularly critical of the late Justice Antonin Scalia and Associ” | |

  12. Just a note about why I hate California. I got a notice of past taxes due from 1995 for CA state income tax. The problem is that I only lived in CA for 3 months, and was off work for medical reasons, I moved to CA after I came back to work. They also seem to think that my tax rate should be 10% of my income for that year too. Incredible!

    1. randyjet – as a good liberal you should be pleased to pay CA whatever they ask.

  13. I think that prof Turley has a point about expanding the SCOTUS beyond the nine. I wonder why the GOPers think that it was appropriate to impeach Clinton for perjury in a civil trial, while they have NO problem with Justice Thomas committing perjury on his financial disclosure forms. He did that for ten years and hiding over half a million dollars in his wifes income from a group that had a case before the SCOTUS. How about that one folks? He then claimed it slipped his mind, then it was the forms were too complex and we will next hear that he forgot where his wife worked too. Hiding income from the public and then hearing a case from the party that paid the money is FAR worse anything Clinton ever did. This is tantamount to bribery. But that is OK for conservatives!

  14. These judges should not be appointed for life. There should be a term limit. 9 supreme court justices. Instead of a lifetime appointment may be an 18 year term. Every 2 years a judge retires and a new one is appointed. May not be the best system, but I believe it’s better than what we have now. If any of the other readers have any ideas please post them, I’d like to see what other people are thinking.

  15. You cannot compare Ruth Bader Ginsberg with John Paul Stevens. Stevens was a legal thinker of the highest order. In stark contrast, Ginsberg is a leftist political hack of the worst sort. She has no ethics, integrity, nor even simple decency.

    Ginsberg has always been making political statements. For example, Ginsberg is such a dedicated leftist, that she gladly made a political statement by attending an anti-Jewish, anti-Israel opera called “The Death of Klinghoffer,” performed at the Metropolitan Opera. Note that the opera refers to the “death” — rather than the murder — of Leon Klinghoffer. The opera is loaded with Islamopandering proIslamoterrorism and anti-Jewish and anti-Israel propaganda. Indeed, it is a leftist’s wet dream. Although Ginsberg may have Jewish lineage, as a dedicated leftist she is always a leftist-firster.

    Thus, while Rudy Giuliani — a Roman Catholic — joined the protests of this foul opera, asserting that it contained “sympathetic justifications for this pure act of terror,” Ginsberg was delighted to attend it and made a grand showing of her presence as well. Giuliani correctly pointed out that the opera was “based on a false premise of moral equivalency and a romanticizing of terrorism.”

    What kind of person of Ginsberg’s stature would do such a thing? The answer is a vile, corrupt, disgusting, leftist political lowlife politician.

    Violate judicial ethics? Hah!

  16. Those and another comment she made recently about “everything in the Country is up for grabs, if Trump is elected” provides us yet another example that because judges are selected for their political party membership they are ill-equipped to decide issues that ought to transcend ideology.

  17. Remove this senile wart from the bench. Her diatribe only underscores the failing of this institution.

  18. This country is hanging on by a thread to the rule of law. That thread is what is left of the connection between our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Those founding principles that once bound this nation together are unrecognizable in our culture today. Instead we have been torn apart and reassembled as special interest voting blocs all bowing down to a utilitarian master. #ruleoflawmatters.

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