Tag Archives: Samuel Alito

GOP not more corrupt than Dems, however …

There is not a chance in hell I am going to declare that Republicans as a human subspecies are inherently more corrupt than Democrats.

However … we are seeing a disturbing trend that seems to give substance to that assertion. I refer to the incidents involving GOP-appointed justices who sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rather than recuse themselves from cases involving wealthy benefactors, three justices seem to go on as if, well, there’s not a damn thing wrong with accepting lavish gifts from individuals who have business before the court.

This is a matter of perception. If the public believes a justice is influenced by those gifts, there remains little room for the justice to set the record straight.

Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted lavish vacations from Texas billionaire Harland Crow. He hasn’t recused himself from any decisions involving his big-time pal. Thomas was nominated for the court in 1991 by GOP President George HW Bush.

Justice Samuel Alito has been accepting lavish gifts from an uber-rich Republican activist. No recusal from Alito, either. President George W. Bush nominated Alito in 2005 to the highest court in the land.

Chief Justice John Roberts’s wife has been working as a head-hunter for big-time law firms that have cases before the high court. Oh, Roberts is another G.W. Bush appointee.

OK, enough about the high court. I have witnessed judicial misbehavior in Texas at lower courts. For instance, I offered criticism of a Democratic district judge in Jefferson County who used facsimile letterhead stationery to help him acquire a private business license to operate a restaurant in the county courthouse.

These recent examples of lax ethics standards on the Supreme Court, though, does involve Republican-appointed justices. It is troubling in the extreme to see the court’s public opinion standing plummet in real time.

Americans have every right to demand and expect their justices to adhere to high ethical standards. We aren’t getting it at this time from some members of the high court’s conservative super-majority.

I am, therefore, demanding it from the U.S. Supreme Court.


What don’t these justices get?

What part of the term “conflict of interest” don’t members of the U.S. Supreme Court understand?

Now it’s Justice Samuel Alito who’s under the lights over his involvement with a wealthy Republican campaign donor.

Good grief, man.

ProPublica is reporting that Alito took a pricey vacation thanks to the generosity of a man whose company had business before the nation’s highest court.

Politico.com reports: According to ProPublica’s investigation, Alito in 2008 flew on billionaire Paul Singer’s private jet on a trip that included room and board at Alaska’s pricey King Salmon Lodge. That was paid for by then-owner Robin Arkley II, who is a prolific donor to conservative legal causes, like Singer, according to the report. Singer had connections with corporate entities who later made cases in front of the Supreme Court and won with Alito’s support.

Holy conflict of interest, Batman!

Justice Clarence Thomas has been pilloried over his relationship with Harlan Crow, the wealthy Texan who bankrolled glitzy vacations for the justice and his wife. That’s bad enough.

Now we hear about Justice Alito doing essentially the same thing.

You know, when I first started covering the justice system as an opinion writer in Oregon, then in Beaumont and Amarillo in Texas, one of the first commandments of judges was that they must steer far away from anyone who is litigating legal matters before the courts on which the judge sits. Any appearance of conflict of interest taints any decision the judge makes and opens him or her up to questions about their fairness, let alone their legal scholarship.


What is it going to take for the U.S. Supreme Court to enact some sort ethical rule that prohibits justices from engaging in this kind of cozy cuddling with big donors and/or with those who are trying cases before the judicial panel?

Chief Justice John Roberts refuses to act. So does Congress. Meanwhile, we keep getting reports from legitimate news sources of these kinds of relationships that — at minimum — cast doubt on the fairness of decisions being handed down by the nation’s top judicial court.



Biden is MIA over protests

President Biden needs to step up and issue some stern words of condemnation for those who are threatening bodily harm to Supreme Court justices over their draft opinion on Roe v. Wade.

You know the story by now. Someone leaked a draft opinion stating that the court could overturn the landmark abortion-rights ruling later this year. It has prompted stern and passionate push back from those who want to see the 1973 ruling stand as written.

They have marched in front of the home of the author of the draft document, Justice Samuel Alito, and some protestors have said out loud that physical harm should come to Alito and other conservatives on the court.

Hold on, here! I join them in their anger over the draft opinion. I part company over the calls for violence. So should President Biden, who sadly hasn’t said anything publicly about language coming from some of the protestors.

As we have learned painfully from the horrific events of 1/6, words do matter.


It’s wrong now … and was wrong then

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., expresses his dismay at Russian Vladimir Putin leader granting asylum to American secrets leaker Edward Snowden, at a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013. Defying the United States, Russia granted Edward Snowden temporary asylum on Thursday, allowing the National Security Agency leaker to slip out of the Moscow airport where he has been holed up for weeks in hopes of evading espionage charges back home. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

I believe it was that great fictional Native American sidekick — Tonto — who said to the Lone Ranger, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Thus, it amuses me when I hear critics of this blog and others take note of Democratic U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s declaration in 2007 that the Senate shouldn’t approve any of President Bush’s Supreme Court appointments.

They bring that up to — more or less — justify a statement by Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell to do the same thing regarding the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

If Schumer can make a wrongheaded declaration then it’s OK for our guy to do it, they seem to suggest.

Schumer was wrong then and McConnell is wrong now.

Neither man has distinguished himself on this matter of constitutional authority and presidential prerogative.

So, Schumer’s assertion in 2007 got past me. He absolutely was wrong to say what he said. The U.S. Constitution gives presidents the authority to make appointments to the federal bench and I’ve long given deference to the presidents’ prerogative on these issues. If the president nominates a qualified individual to these posts, then the Senate should grant the appointee a fair hearing — and then vote.

George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004 with voters knowing he would appoint conservative judges to the federal courts. His final Supreme Court appointment came in 2006 when he selected Samuel Alito. Thus, Schumer’s ill-advised admonition a year later became a moot point.

It doesn’t give Senate Majority Leader McConnell any license to erect barriers to the current president doing what he was re-elected to do.




Will these justices stay away from SOTU?


Do you ever hear something from someone and think, “Damn! I wish I’d have thought of that”?

That happened to me today.

One of my Facebook pals wondered out loud if the only mystery surrounding President Obama’s upcoming State of the Union speech would be whether the three most conservative members of the Supreme Court would stay away, as they have done in recent years.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia all have been absent during Obama’s recent speeches before a joint session of Congress.

I’ve long wondered — as have others –whether it is because they detest the president’s politics so much that they’d rather do something else than sit in front of him while he makes policy statement with which they disagree?

Look, gentlemen, this is the last one of these speeches Barack Obama will give as president of the United States. Surely you can find the time — not to mention the courtesy — to attend this speech along with the rest of your colleagues. Chief Justice John Roberts usually attends, and he’s in the conservative camp right along with the three no-show justices.

It might have been a single event that ticked them off. That would be the time that Obama scolded the court for its Citizens United ruling that took the limits off of corporations and enabled them to give unlimited amounts of money to political candidates. Justice Alito was seen mouthing the words “not true” when the president made his critical comments.

That was then. If the scolding is the reason, well, get over it, will you?

The president is entering his final full year in office. The Joint Chiefs of Staff will be there. Most of the Cabinet will be there; custom calls for one of them to stay away in case something catastrophic happens at the nation’s Capitol Building.

I hope all nine justices see fit to make an appearance. They don’t have to applaud. Just be there.


Biden bows out with class, grace


Vice President Joe Biden said a lot of things this morning when he bid farewell to any chance of becoming president of the United States.

I want to focus on one of those things.

He seemed to fire a shot across Hillary Rodham Clinton’s bow after the Democratic Party presidential frontrunner alluded to Republicans as her worst “enemy.”

Not so, said Joe.

Republicans aren’t the enemy. They are political adversaries, he said. He also noted that he retains many friends on the GOP side of the aisle and he indicated to whomever is elected president next year that the way to move the country forward is to end this kind of proverbial political hate speech emanating from both sides of the divide.

I don’t know who started this bitter rhetoric. At this point, I don’t really care. It’s gone on long enough.

The vice president’s call for a more civil discussion is precisely the kind of thing some of us out here have yearned for.

Biden: I will not be silent

Joe Biden is an honorable man. He has his faults, as does every human being who’s ever walked the planet.

The vice president’s “friends” on Fox News, for example, spent some time noting how he got caught during the 1988 presidential campaign stealing speech lines from British politician Neal Kinnock.

Over the years, the vice president’s verbosity has gotten him into trouble. I recall, for example, when CNN put a timer on him while he was supposed to be asking Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito a question during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Biden rambled on for 28 minutes, giving Alito precisely two minutes to answer a question that finally — finally! — came out of the then-senator’s mouth.

But the vice president has served his nation with honor and with great conviction. He’s also weathered intense personal grief, starting with the death of his wife and daughter in that terrible car crash between the time of his 1972 election to the Senate and when he took office; then this year he mourned the death of his beloved son, Beau, from brain cancer.

He’s also sought to mind his manners — most of the time — when talking about policy differences with his Republican opponents.

Message to the politicians who’ll be around when Joe Biden departs the scene in January 2017: How about taking the hint that the vice president dropped on you today? Let’s cut the “enemy” crap.

Well stated, Mr. Vice President.



Justices vent their anger, show their fangs

What? Do you mean to say that the U.S. Supreme Court justices are human beings, with actual tempers?

I guess so, if the story attached to this post is any indicator.


The two huge rulings this week — affirming the Affordable Care Act and legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states — reportedly has revealed a growing schism between the two wings of the court.

Conservative justices don’t like the liberal tilt the court showed in the two rulings.

And at least one of them, Justice Antonin Scalia, said as much in his dissenting opinions.

Scalia and fellow Justice Samuel Alito appear to be angriest at Justice Anthony Kennedy, who joined the liberal justices on both rulings. Kennedy was picked for the court by a conservative president, Ronald Reagan, as was Scalia; Alito was picked by President George W. Bush.

I happen to believe that Scalia and Alito need to settle down. It seems a stretch for me to believe that a high court headed by yet another Bush selection, Chief Justice John Roberts, is going to become a bastion of liberal constitutional interpretation.

OK, so the liberals won two gigantic victories. Obamacare stands and gay marriage is now legal.

There will be plenty of other fights along the way.

What’s more, the fact that Scalia wrote such scathing dissents shouldn’t surprise anyone. He’s known for using colorful language and is fearless in stating his case.

As for the court’s fifth conservative justice, Clarence Thomas, well … he’s always silent during oral arguments before the court. The day Justice Thomas erupts in a fit of rage might be cause for concern.

Lynch deserves confirmation

Allow me to state once again my strong support of presidential prerogative in key appointments.

The current president, Barack Obama, has just nominated Loretta Lynch to become the nation’s next attorney general. The U.S. Senate will vote to confirm or reject the appointment. I join Republicans in wanting the next Senate, the one controlled by the GOP, to have a say in this vote.


But I always shudder at the prospect of trumped-up reasons by the loyal opposition coming to the fore during these hearings.

They crop up from both sides of the aisle.

The Constitution gives the president the authority to nominate Cabinet officers. It also gives the Senate the power to “advise and consent” to the appointments. I get all of that. I understand fully the “co-equal” aspect of government, which empowers the legislative branch with as much power as the executive.

Now that I’ve laid down those cards, I want to declare that the president is elected by the entire nation. Yes, the Senate — as a body — is elected by the same voter base. But it’s the president’s call on who he wants to serve on the Cabinet.

This president has chosen a highly qualified individual. Lynch is seen by both Democrats and Republicans as a workhorse. She’s fair and dogged in her pursuit of justice.

Now we’re getting some rumblings from the far right wing of the Republican Party that at least two senators want Lynch to state whether she believes a potential executive order from the president on immigration is legal. Well, the president has made no such order, so the demand to know such a thing deals with an extreme hypothetical scenario.

I’ve never backed away from this prerogative issue. I stood behind President George H.W. Bush when he nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court for precisely the same reason I back the current president. He’s elected by Americans who were told what kind of individual would receive these appointments. Thomas was qualified to serve on the High Court when the president selected him, although the American Bar Association’s recommendation was less than sparkling. Still, he was qualified.

I have stood behind President George W. Bush’s appointments of Samuel Alito and John Roberts for all those reasons.

My belief in the Lynch appointment falls in line what I perceive as the president’s prerogative as the chief executive of the federal government.

My sincere hope is that the Senate gives Lynch a thorough but fair hearing.

Why so many speeches at these hearings?

This is not exactly a scoop, but I thought I’d ask it anyway: Why do members of Congress have to make speeches when they’re assembled to seek answers to questions from key government officials?


It’s happening as I write this brief blog post.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is quizzing Secretary of State John Kerry about the U.S. plan to defeat and destroy the Islamic State. But without fail, from senators on both sides — Democrats and Republicans — are embarking on long-winded soliloquies before getting to whatever question they want answered from the nation’s top diplomat.

Kerry, of course, knows the score. He served in the Senate for nearly three decades and engaged in some tiresome speechmaking while grilling witnesses before the very committee he once chaired.

Many of out here in the Heartland know what gives, too. Politicians by definition usually are in love with the sound of their own voices. So they want to hear themselves being heard, yes?

I’m reminded of the time during Senate confirmation hearings to decide whether Samuel Alito should join the U.S. Supreme Court. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee gave each senator 30 minutes to “ask questions” of the nominee. Then it came to Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del. CNN put a clock on Biden, who then pontificated for more than 28 minutes.

Biden eventually asked the question and Alito had less than two minutes to respond. Time ran out and the chairman called on the next senator.

I’d much rather hear what a witness has to say hear for the umpteenth time what a senator of House member thinks about this or that issue.