Last month, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participated in The New Republic’s 100th anniversary gala in New York. The event was underwritten by megabank Credit Suisse, which often has cases come before the Supreme Court. (Justice Anthony Kennedy’s son has worked at Credit Suisse, and the so-called swing justice has recused himself in some of these cases.)
While Ginsburg did no more than give a toast honoring the magazine’s history, that she was a featured presenter at an event honoring “the bastion of liberal thought” could raise questions.
It’s widely known that Ginsburg was a leading liberal voice prior to her appointment to the high court, and she has recently achieved celebrity status in liberal circles for her powerful dissents on women’s health issues.
But as a disinterested justice, the question remains as to whether Ginsburg and her colleagues should participate in these types of events. (Was it purely coincidence, then, that her name was left off the list of headliners?)
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.