Supreme Court justices are not required to follow the professional code of ethics that their roughly 700 federal judge colleagues are bound to and which forbids judicial participation in activities that may appear political. The nine say they do consult the code, yet either way, dining with President Trump when the court is months away from considering a barrage of litigation bearing the president’s name, as nearly happen last week, is not in the best interests of the so-called apolitical branch.
But such a meal would be fascinating, pundits protest. What would they talk about, given the president has little experience with or knowledge of the justices’ primary interests (in order of seniority, that’s Kennedy, California wine; Thomas, Nebraska football and RVs; Ginsburg, opera; Breyer, French culture; Roberts, constitutional law; Alito, the Philadelphia Phillies, Sotomayor, salsa dancing; Kagan, recalling obscure facts about acquaintances; Gorsuch, fishing.)?
No matter. There is nothing to be gained and much to be lost. While such dinners have occurred in the past – remember the past, when the high court was deemed nonpartisan and presidents nominated ideological moderates? – the past isn’t coming back, and there’s no need to encourage more he (Trump)-said, she (Ginsburg)-said after the fact.
If the justices want to leave their comfort zones and speak with those with whom they may not agree, I suggest a Republican-appointed justice appearing at an American Constitution Society or Center for American Progress event, and a Democratic-appointed one showing up to the Federalist Society or Heritage Foundation.
That would do more for the court’s image – and the president’s, for that matter, since who knows what Trump would tweet about following a POTUS-SCOTUS tête-à-tête – than a bread-breaking boondoggle.