There's no such thing in nature: a mere term
Invented to awe fools.
Ben Jonson (1572 - 1637), playwright and poet
The United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, is the final forum for appeal in the American judiciary. The Court has interpreted the Constitution and has decided the country’s preeminent legal disputes for nearly two centuries.
Can the American people really feel secure in knowing that their Supreme Court Justices are above reproach? The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts since joining the Supreme Court, from $1,200 worth of tires to valuable historical items and a $5,000 personal check to help pay a relative's education expenses.
There is nothing illegal in this, but ethically it is wrong. These nine jurists just shape the future meaning of the U.S. Constitution, should they really be accepting exclusive private trips, country club memberships, and expensive antique gifts? The people providing the gifts may not personally have a case before the court, but may want to influence a future decision.
In a six-year period from 1998 to 2003, Thomas accepted $42,200 in gifts, making him easily the top recipient. This is the justice that President Bush admires and may nominate as Chief Justice. The next highest was Sandra Day O'Connor, who accepted $5,825 in gifts, mostly small crystal figurines and other items. The example in behavior and rulings should be David H. Souter, who turned down all gifts and club memberships.
In the words of the esteemed Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, regarding his duck-hunting trip and a case involving his duck-hunting partner on a recent vacation: Vice President Cheney, “That’s all I’m going to say for now. Quack, quack.”
Addendum: Please see Lowering the Bar for Government Ethics, from the Washington Post. It is very apropos to the above piece reported by the Los Angeles Times.