Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has never displayed much regard for judicial ethics. For instance, he cast a decisive vote in the 2000 Florida recount case of Bush v. Gore, arguably the most important decision in the court's recent history, despite the fact that his sons were working for law firms associated with the campaign of George W. Bush.
After Scalia's support from the bench allowed him to assume the presidency, Bush appointed one of the justice's sons to a high-level position in the U.S. Department of Labor.
This year, Scalia again wants to bend judicial standards past the breaking point.
The Supreme Court agreed last month to take up an appeal by Vice President Dick Cheney in a case that involves the refusal of the No. 2 man in the Bush administration to disclose the identities of members of the secretive energy task force he headed shortly after taking office in 2001.
Millions of taxpayer dollars were spent to support the task force's work, yet Cheney refuses to reveal the names of energy industry insiders - such as Enron's Ken Lay - who appear to have influenced efforts by the task force to shape an energy policy for the United States.
Cheney has come under increasingly intense political and legal pressure to disclose the identities of energy industry insiders he met and consulted with. Now he wants the Supreme Court to rule that he does not have to abide by rules that seek to ensure government decision making can be scrutinized by the American people.
No honest jurist would hesitate to rebuke Cheney.
However, there are some questions about whether all the jurists who are to hear this case will be honest players.
Three weeks after the court agreed to take the Cheney case, Scalia spent a weekend duck hunting in southern Louisiana with Cheney. The bird-slaying trek brought to light a fact that Cheney and Scalia both acknowledge: The men are old friends. Yet Scalia continues to claim he can and will remain impartial with regard to a case that is of tremendous consequence for his old friend.
Even if Scalia could remain impartial, the appearance of impropriety is so obvious - and so extreme - that he must recuse himself from this case.
If Scalia fails to take the ethical course, his fellow justices should move to sanction a jurist who seems to have a problem distinguishing between right and wrong.
Copyright 2004 The Capital Times