Brian Ross of ABC News is usually one of the better investigative journalists in the mainstream media. I generally like the fact that he digs hard for information and doesn’t let go of a legitimate story even if the 24 hour news cycle has forgotten about it in favor of covering the latest J-Lo breakup. But this article alleging a Supreme Court ethics scandal is not just bad, it’s laughable. I’m not exactly the biggest Scalia fan in the world, but I can recognize a bad hatchet job when I see one.
At the historic swearing-in of John Roberts as the 17th chief justice of the United States last September, every member of the Supreme Court, except Antonin Scalia, was in attendance. ABC News has learned that Scalia instead was on the tennis court at one of the country’s top resorts, the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Bachelor Gulch, Colo., during a trip to a legal seminar sponsored by the Federalist Society.
Not only did Scalia’s absence appear to be a snub of the new chief justice, but according to some legal ethics experts, it also raised questions about the propriety of what critics call judicial junkets.
“It’s unfortunate of course that what kept him from the swearing-in was an activity that is itself of dubious ethical propriety,” said Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor, who is a recognized scholar on legal ethics.
Yeah, well, if he continues to make absurd charges of alleged impropriety like this, he isn’t going to be a recognized scholar on legal ethics for long. As Michael Cernovich at the Crime and Federalism blog points out, Scalia was actually teaching a 2 day seminar on the separation of powers for a class of more than 100 lawyers for continuing legal education credits. It was a seminar he agreed to do months in advance. The fact that he may have been on the tennis court at the moment of the swearing in is irrelevant.
The rest of the allegations are similarly void of substance. There are probably a few things I’d rather see Justices not be given, like country club memberships, just because it gives an image of impropriety that likely doesn’t add up to real impropriety. But to make such routine things as this into a scandal is ridiculous, and well beneath the talents of an otherwise reliable investigative reporter.