Making The Independent Judiciary A Joke

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

The independence of the judiciary means that the Courts should be free from improper influence from outside interests.  What a great idea for having a transparent, fair judicial system.  It’s a concept that has so much promise.  But in practice the present Supreme Court and its members may be driving it off a cliff. Today’s news about Justice Thomas’s wife’s lobbying business may signal its ultimate demise.

The New York Times reports that Justice Thomas’s wife,

who has raised her political profile in the last year through her outspoken conservative activism, is rebranding herself as a lobbyist and self-appointed “ambassador to the Tea Party movement.”

Virginia Thomas, the justice’s wife, said on, a Web site for her new political consulting business, that she saw herself as an advocate for “liberty-loving citizens” who favored limited government, free enterprise and other core conservative issues. She promised to use her “experience and connections” to help clients raise money and increase their political impact.


Can you read that sentence again?  “She promised to use her ‘experience and connections‘ to help clients raise money and increase their political impact.”  Her connections.  Well, her biggest, if not her only connection is her husband, who has more than once imposed his wackadoodle analysis of the law on the nation to benefit those who appointed him to the high court and whom he holds close to his heart:  Bush v. Gore and Citizens United are only the top of the heap.  Her connections indeed.

Of course, lawyers and law professors and others note that this is an ethical outrage:

Ms. Thomas’s effort to take a more operational role on conservative issues could intensify questions about her husband’s ability to remain independent on issues like campaign finance and health care, legal ethicists said.

Justice Thomas “should not be sitting on a case or reviewing a statute that his wife has lobbied for,” said Monroe H. Freedman, a Hofstra Law School professor specializing in legal ethics. “If the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, that creates a perception problem.”…

Arn Pearson, a vice president at Common Cause, a liberal group that has been critical of potential conflicts at the Supreme Court caused by Ms. Thomas’s work, said her new position, combined with Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent address before a closed-door seminar of the Tea Party Caucus, provided further evidence of “the politicization of the court.”

“The level of bias we’re seeing is really troubling,” Mr. Pearson said.

Mr. Friedman is too kind.

And how is it that Ms. Thomas got herself in this position?

Ms. Thomas’s founding of her own political consulting shop, Liberty Consulting, was first reported Thursday by Politico, which said she had begun reaching out to freshmen Republicans in Congress.

The move comes a few months after she gave up the top spot at Liberty Central, a conservative Web site that she founded in 2009 and that has strong links to the Tea Party movement.

An anonymous $500,000 donation to start up Liberty Central came from Harlan Crow, a Dallas real estate investor and Republican financier, Politico reported.

Mr. Crow, reached by phone Friday, would not say whether he was the source of the money. “I disclose what I’m required by law to disclose,” he said, “and I don’t disclose what I’m not required to disclose.”

You can be sure that Mr. Crow’s $50,000 is just the first drop, and that there will be a torrent of money from others who want to buy influence from Ms. Thomas.  And her husband.

And what’s this about reaching out to “freshmen Republicans in Congress,” the very people who are presently trying to repeal the health care bill either all at once (fail!) or piece by piece by piece?  And what’s this simultaneous news that the Virginia Attorney General is trying to take the Government’s appeal that state’s crazy health care decision directly to the Supreme Court?

Just coincidences, I’m sure.  Just coincidences.  I’m sure the Court can mind its own ethics.


simulposted at The Dream Antilles


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  1. Thank you for reading.

  2. When the Republicans replace a conservative member he is farther to the right than his predecessor and the same holds true for Democrats.

    Last year I had a railroad case where the Sixth Circuit essentially overruled a SC case from the fifties or sixties.  Two of the three justices were Democratic appointments and the author of the opinion was a Republican. I had thought long and hard about taking the case to the SC if I lost at the sixth, but in the end decided that this was a really bad time to do so and the last thing the Plaintiff’s bar needed was a SC decision unquestionably gutting FELA.  At least not appealing makes it possible for someone later to bring up another case at a better time and maybe save FELA.

    (In my case the sixth held that a subcontractor of the railroad that took over all of the loading and unloading of the trains [24/7/365 for three years and renewable] was an “independent contractor” and that employees of this subcontractor were not entitled to FELA benefits.  Slaves had more independence than this particular subcontractor.  My client was an employee of the subcontractor and badly hurt at the railroad yard while in the process of loading or unloading trains.  The mere facts of the opinion are a blueprint on how to use subcontractors to avoid FELA requirements).

    But what do you do?

    I remember my contracts professor in 1975 saying that the Supreme Court really didn’t make law and that it was a political court.  I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.

    It does seem though that the arrogance of Scalia and Thomas is a new twist.  Alito may prove just as arrogant.  Time will tell.

    In the courts, times are really hard for the little guy and small business owner.

  3. MaryKK gets it.  It is always the appearance of impropriety and impartiality that undermines the judiciary.

    I have never been a judge but as a lawyer I have faced the question of loyalty many times.  I have never taken a med-mal case against my wife’s hospital.  I have always explained to any one wanting me to take a case against the hospital that even if I thought I could jealously represent him/her against the hospital he/she would always have some doubt in his/her mind about whether I could.  I never wanted a client to doubt my loyalty for even a second.

    Loyalty to a client and impartiality of the court are the yin/yang of the legal system.

    There was a time when all lawyers were men and their spouses did not work and the questions of loyalty and impropriety are not as pervasive as they are today.  When both spouses work, the question will always come up in a marriage at some point.  Maybe we need some new ethics rules on the point that clearly establish bright line guidelines.

    Those who don’t understand the harm the appearance of impartiality causes to the system, just don’t get what legal ethics is supposed to be about.  Impartiality is the cornerstone of justice.

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