Posted by Curt on 5 July, 2011 at 2:01 pm. 4 comments already!


I’ve had ample occasion to expose the mendacityinanity, and confusion that have pervaded recentNew York Times house editorials on the Supreme Court and ethics, and I’ll confess that it’s rather tedious to do so yet again, but I gather that there are some people who still take NYT house editorials seriously, so here goes:

The NYT’s lead house editorial today charges that “in several instances [this past term], justices acted in ways that weakened the court’s reputation for being independent and impartial,” and it cites rulings that it alleges “raise the question of whether there is still a line between the court and politics.” It argues that the “justices must address doubts about the court’s legitimacy by making themselves accountable to the [C]ode of [C]onduct [for United States Judges]” (which currently applies only to lower-court judges).

Let’s address the editorial’s claims:

1. As the sole support for its charge that that “in several instances, justices acted in ways that weakened the court’s reputation for being independent and impartial,” the editorial states:  “Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito Jr., for example, appeared at political events.”

Let me translate this out of the Stalinist dialect. When the NYT says that Scalia “appeared at [a] political event[],” it is referring to Scalia’s speaking on the topic of separation of powers at an event organized by a formally recognized caucus of the House of Representatives—the Tea Party Caucus—and open to all members to attend. As the reports from liberal Democratic members who did attend Scalia’s talk show, there was nothing remotely political or partisan about the event.

The charge against Alito evidently relates to his attending a fundraising dinner for the conservativeAmerican Spectator. The Code of Conduct’s prohibition on “political activity” (Canon 5) states that a judge “should not … attend or purchase a ticket for a dinner or other event sponsored by a political organization or candidate,” and it specifically defines “political organization” to mean “a political party, a group affiliated with a political party or candidate for public office, or an entity whose principal purpose is to advocate for or against political candidates or parties in connection with elections for public office.” So it’s clear that the American Spectator is not a “political organization” under Canon 5, and there’s no reason to believe that Alito’s attending the dinner would otherwise qualify as “political activity” within the meaning of that canon (or that the dinner was a “political event” as that phrase would ordinarily be understood).

It’s also noteworthy that the NYT, so far as I’m aware, has never objected to far more problematicbehavior by liberal justices.

2. Here’s a telling illustration of the NYT’s routine dishonesty: The editorial states (emphasis added)

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