Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is under scrutiny after attending a holiday party hosted by longtime Republican operative Matt Schlapp. However, it’s not the party itself that has people questioning the integrity of the far-right wing justice, but the controversy is about who else was there.
In this case, that person is Stephen Miller.
The former Trump advisor’s organization, America First Legal Foundation, has interests in at least two cases that are still pending in the Court – raising both eyebrows, and questions about conflicts of interest that Kavanaugh may be accused of.
“Supreme Court justices should be extraordinarily careful in not only having no actual ethical difficulties but having no appearance of an ethical conundrum as well,” Emory University School of Law Professor Tonja Jacobi said, according to Bloomberg Law.
Charles Geyh, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, says that Kavanaugh’s decision to attend the private party hosted at the home of the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) founder, Schlapp, is reflective of either “insensitivity or indifference” to being surrounded by those who “live, eat, and breathe conservative political action.”
“This is the worst possible time for this,” he said.
“Though Supreme Court justices aren’t bound by the judicial code of ethics for federal judges, Geyh said they closely adhere to it and the code says judges should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities,” Bloomberg Law wrote.
“In the larger context of a court that is struggling with public support for the institution and is at risk of losing legitimacy, this is at a minimum a poor idea and potentially a violation of judicial ethics, he said.”
Miller’s America First Legal Foundation filed friend of the court briefs also known as Amicus curiae, in two highly watched and controversial cases.
Moore v. Harper, which seeks to usurp the will of the people and give state legislatures the power to control and determine the outcome of elections, and the anti-affirmative action case, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard.
“America First Legal has a substantial interest in this case because this Court’s affirmative-action cases have disregarded the text of Title VI and other federal civil-rights statutes that clearly and unambiguously prohibit all forms of discrimination on account of race,” Miller’s brief stated.
“America First Legal urges this Court to enforce Title VI as written and prohibit Harvard College from considering race in admissions unless Congress amends the text of Title VI to permit the practice, or unless Harvard University chooses to decline federal funds.”
This comes after former anti-abortion advocate, Rev. Robert Schenck, testified before Congress that Justice Samuel Alito leaked a draft in the Burrell v. Hobby Lobby case in 2014. Schenck outlined a detailed and concerted effort by conservative groups to influence Republican-appointed judges to rule in their favor in pivotal cases to push a right-wing agenda.
Since Justice Alito’s opinion revealed the Court’s intent to overturn Roe v. Wade, there have been calls to revisit the confirmation of Alito, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh for lying during their testimonies.
All three said they considered the landmark decision to be settled law, and had no intention of challenging or overturning the precedent.
The beer-loving extremist has appeared to join his fellow right-wing justices in flouting rules, protocol, ethics, and integrity for which the nation’s highest court was once known, eradicating the public’s trust and faith in the Court’s impartiality – and weakening its prestige.
This news won’t help matters. It’s time to expand the Court.
Original reporting by Lydia Wheeler at Bloomberg Law.
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