Ecclesiam res et talia sermocinamur -

We talk about the Church, stuff, and such

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Scalia, Bribes, and the Federalist Society

Southern Appeal points to an ABC story that reveals the shocking fact that Supreme Court justices, including everyone's (except ABC's apparently) favorite hard-hitting justice of Italian descent, do things like give seminars and have fun! Scalia even keeps promises!

Ok, so, let's make a few distinctions. There are such things are bribes. For a judge, this is when a person in whose case you are or know you will be deciding gives you something of value in order to influence you. cf, A Man for All Seasons, the scene at the beginning with the silver goblet. That was, as St. Thomas observes, a bribe.

Compare this with the requisite "perks" of business. Attorneys need x hours (it varies by jurisdiction) of Continuing Legal Education each year. A lot of these CLE seminars are run by large organizations that have to shell out lots of money to organize and operate the seminars. They have to be held at someplace nice, or attorneys won't come and pay an outrageous fee to listen to a weekend of lectures. Furthermore, they have to have nice facilities because otherwise, they won't get spectacular speakers like Supreme Court justices to come talk. For any attorneys in the crowd, when was the last time you saw an advertisement for a CLE seminar -- much less a cool sounding one -- at a Motel 6? Yeah, we'll be sure to leave the light on for ya.

The message the ABC reporter seems to be conveying is that it is either a) illicit for judges ever to teach CLE, or b) illicit for them to do ordinary human things (like stay in the hotel, talk with people, eat, and play tennis) when doing so. The reporter seems to have confused the Supreme Court with the Benedictine Order. One upholds the Constitution, the other takes a vow of poverty. Judges are not Benedictines, and the law does not expect them to be. The law expects judges to be unbiased judicators, and engaging in regular professional and social activities does not impinge on that obligation. These only become unethical when they represent an attempt to influence the judicial decision making of the beneficiary. Since when does the Federalist Society need to influence Scalia?

Oh, and whatever you do, never, ever, ever keep your word when people think you shouldn't. At least, that's what ABC says.

File Under:
File Under:


Post a Comment

<< Home