Saturday, March 20, 2004

More on Scalia's recusal refusal.

Much has been made in the days following Scalia's memorandum opinion denying Sierra Club's motion to recuse about "the appearance of impropriety or bias." I agree that appearances matter, and that Supreme Court justices should strive mightily to avoid even the appearance of impropriety or bias. But if "appearance" is what a well-oiled publicity machine can get a dozen editorial-page writers to agree with, then we've created a kind of "heckler's veto," and we will all reap the whirlwind if that becomes the standard for recusal.

It would have been better for us all, especially for Scalia and the Court, if he hadn't gone duck hunting with the Veep three weeks after the Court granted cert. in Cheney's case. If Scalia truly believes in his heart that this is not true, he has as tin an ear for appearances as he has been accused of having. But it did happen. And he explained it in as direct and forceful a manner as one could wish. Is there still an appearance of impropriety? Do you really believe that Scalia has left the impression that he might throw the case for Cheney?

A generation ago, conservatives mounted a witch hunt to get William O. Douglas off the Court. Liberals howled, even though Douglas probably gave his opponents more impeachment fodder to work with than Scalia ever will. Going after the scalps of justices whose positions we oppose may seem like sport, but it can be turned against justices whose positions we support in a heartbeat. And, regardless of whose ox is getting gored, the Court and the rest of us are the losers at the end of this game.
posted by Tom Mayo, 2:18 PM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter