Friday, December 31, 2004

Sleaze in the Supreme Court?

From the Los Angeles Times

Gifts To Justices Raise Bar's Eyebrows Lawyer Group Wants Tighter Rules; Thomas Tops List For Value Of Items

December 31, 2004 By RICHARD A. SERRANO, And DAVID G. SAVAGE Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- 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.

The gifts included a Bible once owned by the 19th century author and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, which Thomas valued at $19,000, and a bust of President Lincoln valued at $15,000.

He also took a free trip aboard a private jet to the exclusive Bohemian Grove club in northern California - arranged by a Texas real estate investor who has helped run an advocacy group that filed briefs with the Supreme Court.

Those and other gifts were disclosed by Thomas under a 1978 federal ethics law that requires high-ranking government officials, including the nine Supreme Court justices, to file a report each year that lists gifts, money and other items they have received.

Thomas reported accepting much more valuable gifts than his court colleagues over the last six years, according to disclosure forms on file at the court.

The Ethics in Government Act of 1989 prohibits all federal employees, including the justices, from accepting "anything of value" from a person with official business before them. However, under the rules that the federal judicial system adopted to implement that law, judges are free to accept gifts of unlimited value from people without official business before the court.

Representatives for the federal judiciary and the Supreme Court argue that requiring the disclosure of any gifts is sufficient to prevent corruption or the appearance of favoritism.

In October, an American Bar Association panel urged tightening the rules to forbid judges from taking expensive gifts, free tickets and other valuable items, regardless of who is the donor.

"Why would someone do that - give a gift to Clarence Thomas? Unless they are family members or really close friends, the only reason to give gifts is to influence the judge," said Mark I. Harrison, a Phoenix lawyer who heads the ABA's Commission on the Model Code of Judicial Conduct.

"And we think it is not helpful to have judges accepting gifts for no apparent reason."

Thomas declined to comment when asked in writing why he deemed it appropriate to accept some of the larger gifts. But a former clerk defended the practice.

"I don't see anything wrong in this. I don't see why it is inappropriate to get gifts from friends," said John C. Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

"This reflects a bizarre effort to over-ethicize everyday life. If one of these people were to appear before the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas would recuse himself. So I don't see the problem."

The Los Angeles Times reviewed the disclosures of all nine justices for the years 1998 through 2003, the only period of time for which disclosure forms were still on file at the court. They reported receiving cash, which they usually gave to charity, but kept or used various valuable items, mementos and club memberships.

In that six-year period, Thomas accepted $42,200 in gifts, making him easily the top recipient.Next was Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who accepted $5,825 in gifts, mostly small crystal figurines and other items. She also reported an $18,000 award in 2003 from the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, but listed it as income. The money was for the society's Benjamin Franklin Award for Distinguished Public Service. She gave other cash awards to charity.

Third was Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who accepted a $5,000 award from Fordham University - the only gift he reported for the six-year period.

Justices earned $194,300 this year and will get $199,200 in 2005, comfortable salaries but modest compared with some private-sector lawyers. They can earn as much as $23,000 more through outside activities.

The above came from the Hartford Courant website.

Fair use of copyrighted material

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My email to incoming Gov. Rell of Connecticut regarding Rowland and corruption

Telling your Attorney to go fuck himself- PRICELESS

A Justice System really has to be corrupt and out of hand for something to actually change

The Death of Shame in America(O'Reilly of the O'Reilly Factor, Fox News, asks Gov. John G. Rowland to resign Dec. 2003)

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Can cops rape, rob, beat, and murder with immunity?(post contains pictures of young adults brutalized by police, and picture of a 1978 Chevrolet Corvette and one of the houses I fixed up from a boarded up condition) Link has expired for this post

With rogue judges and their minions, police officers, do we really live in a Democracy? (post)

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