PoliticsUSA, a highly partisan liberal website, has an article accusing Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of violating federal judicial ethics standards by appearing at a Federalist Society fundraising dinner. But they dishonestly quote the judicial code of conduct in the process.
For three years, at least, there have been nagging questions about Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia’s close ties to right-wing organizations and their funding mechanism the Koch Brothers, but without a rigorous code of ethics in place there was little chance they would be held to account for, or forced to stop, using their positions on the Court to promote the Koch brothers’ right-wing agenda. Two days ago, Clarence Thomas was at it again when he appeared at a Federalist Society “fundraiser” as a featured speaker that two other High Court justices, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito also attended. It is a violation of Canon 4C of the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges who are forbidden from being “a speaker, a guest of honor, or featured on the program” of a fundraising event, but because Thomas, a federal judge, sits on the nation’s highest court he is exempt, apparently, from adhering to any code of conduct. Just when it appeared no-one in a position of authority would take action and demand Thomas be held accountable for his recurring ethical violations, a lone elected representative once again spoke out for the American people.
Congressional representative Louise Slaughter is mounting another attempt to hold Thomas, and all High Court justices, to the same ethical standards as every other federal judge and initiated a petition to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to hold Thomas to account for defying the judicial Code of Conduct.
Except they didn’t defy it. Here’s the quote from above in context:
(C) Fund Raising. A judge may assist nonprofit law-related, civic, charitable, educational, religious, or social organizations in planning fund-raising activities and may be listed as an officer, director, or trustee. A judge may solicit funds for such an organization from judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority and from members of the judge’s family. Otherwise, a judge should not personally participate in fund-raising activities, solicit funds for any organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose. A judge should not personally participate in membership solicitation if the solicitation might reasonably be perceived as coercive or is essentially a fund-raising mechanism.
It specifically allows even planning and directing fundraising activities for a non-profit, law-related organizations that are “civic, charitable, educational, religious, or social” — that is, for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations. The Federalist Society is a C3, just like the ACLU or the American Constitution Society, which is the liberal equivalent of FedSoc. If one of the liberal justices did a fundraiser for either of those organizations, and they likely have at some point, that is also not a violation of judicial ethical standards. It doesn’t become a violation because the group they raised funds for is one that you disagree with.