DUCK HUNTING AND FEMINISM….Aside from a couple of passing jokes I didn’t comment on last month’s LA Times story about Antonin Scalia and Dick Cheney going duck hunting together. To be sure, there are limits to the amount of socializing justices should do with people who have cases in front of them, but when you’re a Supreme Court justice practically everyone in government (and a big chunk of the rest of the world too) has an interest in at least one or two of the dozens of annual cases you hear. What’s more, other high government officials are your natural social circle. If you can’t go duck hunting with any of them, who can you go duck hunting with?
Today the Times follows up with a story about Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has lent her name and presence to a lecture series cosponsored by the liberal NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, an advocacy group that often argues before the high court in support of women’s rights that the justice embraces.
In January, Ginsburg gave opening remarks for the fourth installment in the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Distinguished Lecture Series on Women and the Law. Two weeks earlier, she had voted in a medical screening case and taken the side promoted by the legal defense fund in its friend-of-the-court brief.
As it happens, I think we do ourselves a disservice by trying to pretend that Supreme Court justices are hermit automatons who have no interaction with the outside world. It’s inevitable that they have lots of friends who have an interest in the kind of broad cases they decide, and it’s also well known that they bring opinions of their own about social issues to the bench. Frankly, I’d rather know about it than pretend they don’t exist.
A personal stake in a case is one thing, but I’m unconvinced that social friendships or light participation in advocacy groups ought to be grounds for recusal.
In any case, the Times has now fingered one conservative judge and one liberal judge, so I think they’ve fulfilled their obligation to be evenhanded. It might be time to move on to something more important.