Bruce Fein, Ronald Reagan’s former Associate Deputy Attorney General, published a letter in today’s New York Times castigating Justice Antonin Scalia for speaking to a backroom meeting organized by the House Tea Party Caucus:
Justice Antonin Scalia galloped beyond the farthest boundaries of judicial propriety in secretly meeting on Capitol Hill to discuss the Constitution with Tea Party members of Congress saddled with a co-equal duty to assess the constitutionality of legislative action. If there are better ways to destroy public confidence in judicial impartiality, they do not readily come to mind. … Associate Justice Abe Fortas was forced to resign for, among other things, secretly advising President Lyndon B. Johnson on race, urban unrest and the Vietnam War.
Sadly, Scalia’s schmoozing with Tea Partiers is only one of many recent instances which call into question the impartiality of the federal bench. Scalia and his colleague Clarence Thomas both attended Koch-hosted fundraising sessions devoted to building and funding a corporate political movement. Likewise, Justice Alito is a profligate fundraiser for right-wing political causes. Justice Thomas’ wife may have found a way to get rich off of her husband’s judicial decisions. Three federal appellate judges sit on the board of an infamous “junkets for judges” organization that offers expense-paid trips to western resorts for judges who agree to attend a seminar on how to rule in favor of corporations. In the Fifth Circuit, which will hear appeals arising out of the BP oil disaster, ten of the court’s sixteen judges hold oil investments. The court’s chief judge, Edith Jones, holds as much as $330,000 in oil investments and frequently attends pro-corporate junkets. All of this raises serious questions about whether ordinary Americans can expect impartial justice, or whether justice is only available to those who can afford it.