Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia threw his hat in with the Tea Party camp when he gave a secret talk to Michele Bachmann's Tea Party Caucus.
When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia accepted an invitation from the Tea Party Caucus to brief its members on the Constitution, controversy threatened to engulf the event. But the caucus then broadened the invitation to include Democratic members of Congress, too, and on Monday night there appeared to be more fizzle than sizzle to the charge of unseemly partisanship by a Supreme Court justice.
The event took place behind closed doors, so the only accounts of what happened came from those members of Congress who attended. Tea Party leader Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) portrayed the event as respectful. "We were delighted with his remarks," said Bachmann, noting that both Democrats and Republicans stood up to ask questions after the justice's formal presentation.
For many Republicans, Scalia is a rock star, and they talked about him afterward a bit like teenagers with a crush. Democrats were more reserved, suggesting that much of what Scalia said was, as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) put it, "very dry."
Bachmann tried to head off any controversy by inviting all members of Congress to the talk, but that was a shallow gesture. Conservatives have been accusing and threatening judges nationally for being activists, but with the revelations about the wife of Clarence Thomas and Scalia, I have to say a larger and darker cloud has been cast over the Supreme Court and their right-wing agenda. We already know that this Republican led Supreme Court have been overturning decades of settled law since Roberts took over and now they are openly flaunting their conservative agenda.
The NY Times ran an editorial blasting Scalia's participation back on December 18th.
When the Tea Party holds its first Conservative Constitutional Seminar next month, Justice Antonin Scalia is set to be the speaker. It was a bad idea for him to accept this invitation. He should send his regrets.
The Tea Party epitomizes the kind of organization no justice should speak to — left, right or center — in the kind of seminar that has been described in the press. It has a well-known and extreme point of view about the Constitution and about cases and issues that will be decided by the Supreme Court.
By meeting behind closed doors, as is planned, and by presiding over a seminar, implying give and take, the justice would give the impression that he was joining the throng — confirming his new moniker as the “Justice from the Tea Party.” The ideological nature of the group and the seminar would eclipse the justice’s independence and leave him looking rash and biased.
There is nothing like the Tea Party on the left, but if there were and one of the more liberal justices accepted a similar invitation from it, that would be just as bad. This is not about who appointed the justice or which way the justice votes. Independence and the perception of being independent are essential for every justice.
By presiding over this seminar, Justice Scalia would provide strong reasons to doubt his impartiality when he ruled later on any topic discussed there. He can best convey his commitment to the importance of his independence, and the court’s, by deciding it would be best not to attend.