Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has issued an apology over her tirade against GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. A statement was issued today stating
“On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them. Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect.”
The statements of course were a bit more than “ill-advised.” They were unethical. Moreover, some have noted that expressing regret is not an apology. I do believe an apology is in order. However, the statement makes no excuses and promises to avoid such transgressions in the future. It should defuse much of the current controversy, even though Ginsburg’s conduct was quite shocking. With three separate interviews and a well-established ethical rule against such statements, the violation was frankly breathtaking. I have great respect for Justice Ginsburg but this incident will tarnish an otherwise inspiring legacy on the Court.
Moreover, if this election produces another court challenge like the one in Bush v. Gore, I believe that Ginsburg would have to seriously consider recusing herself. It would be highly inappropriate for her to sit on such a case after saying that she might move to New Zealand rather than live in a country headed by Trump.
I still hope that the incident will refocus attention on the need for the reform of the Supreme Court. I have long advocated an enforceable system of judicial ethics. The apology today should not detract from the need to have such a system. The Supreme Court is the only part of our federal government that has no enforceable ethical code. This is not the first such violation by a member of the Court. Indeed, a majority of justices have been accused of ethical violations.
I also hope that the incident will force greater circumspection on the part of Ginsburg and her colleagues over their growing public appearances and speeches. I have been a long critic of what I have called the “celebrity justice” model of the modern Court. The corrosive effect of such public engagements is evident in the unethical statements made by Justice Ginsburg.