I really wish Supreme Court justices would at least make an effort to avoid the appearance of impropriety. (thanks to R.P. for the tip)

The day the Supreme Court gathered behind closed doors to consider the politically divisive question of whether it would hear a challenge to President Obama’s healthcare law, two of its justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, were feted at a dinner sponsored by the law firm that will argue the case before the high court.

In this instance, we’re talking about the annual dinner of the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group which has hosted many dinners Scalia and Thomas have attended. But these justices’ extra-curricular activities send unsettling signals — on Thursday morning, they huddled over the Affordable Care Act; on Thursday night, they were featured guests at a dinner sponsored by firms, trade associations, and corporations with a direct role in the case.

As the L.A. Times report noted, lower-court judges would risk ethics violations by taking similar actions — but Scalia and Thomas are not bound by the same code of conduct.

And all of this might be slightly less disconcerting were it not for the even larger context, including Scalia and Thomas having attended a conservative strategy session hosted by Koch Industries last year.

Maybe we’ll all be very pleasantly surprised, but by any reasonable measure, can anyone have confidence in Scalia’s and Thomas’s objectivity?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.