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Justice Scalia and the $175 Entree

Justice Scalia recently said he’d like to play himself in an upcoming production of “Scalia / Ginsburg,” an opera written about the justice’s stirring dissents.

That’s unlikely. Instead, if you’d like to follow the court’s longest-tenured justice, you’re most likely to try a Federalist Society fundraising dinner. The Federalist Society is well-known and influential conservative legal organization whose membership includes some of the country’s brightest legal minds.

If Justice Scalia were attorney Scalia, he’d be a leading member. And, even if the justices were bound to a code of ethics, there would be nothing wrong with the justice appearing at a FedSoc function to deliver a speech.

But that one of the nation’s top jurists would appear at a $175-a-plate fundraiser with attorneys who, at that very moment, may be preparing briefs to the high court raises some ethical concerns.

At the very least, Scalia was open about his participation in the event and didn’t try to hide it from the press, though, regrettably, video and audio recordings were not allowed.

While the White House and many congressional offices each day release the public schedules of the President and members of Congress, respectively, the Supreme Court refrains from giving advance notice of when a justice is appearing in public for a lecture, seminar, or other event. And sometimes, when a justice appears in public, he or she goes to great lengths to ensure a speech or panel discussion is not recorded or broadcast. Further, it’s not always clear from a justice’s annual financial disclosure report who paid for his or her travel to and lodging for said event.

Fix the Court is calling on the court to advise the press of the justices’ public appearances (i.e., not vacation or other personal dealings) outside of the court, allow media coverage of most of those appearances like other top government officials and be more forthcoming about their travel benefactors in their disclosure reports.

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