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Published: Sunday, 3/6/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Roberts' rules

THE U.S. Supreme Court has long been criticized for delivering politically charged opinions. Such criticism, currently focused on conservative justices, shouldn't be dismissed as predictably political, but instead ought to be judged on its merits.

It is one thing for liberals to be exercised about particular high-court rulings, such as the infamous Citizens United campaign-finance opinion, which dumped precedent to establish the theory that corporations, like people, have First Amendment rights.

It is another thing to note that some justices have seemingly courted the appearance of conflicts of interest. Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia raised eyebrows -- and hackles -- by attending what the Washington Post called private political meetings sponsored by the billionaire Koch brothers in 2007 and 2008.

More recently, Justice Samuel Alito attended fund-raising dinners for the American Spectator, a conservative political magazine.

Now a group of more than 100 law professors has appealed to Congress to extend to the Supreme Court an ethical code of conduct that applies to lower courts.

They're right, but Congress shouldn't have to do this. Chief Justice John Roberts should.

What are justices doing at politically charged events, whether liberal or conservative? It not only looks bad, it not only undermines respect for the Supreme Court, but it also is ludicrous.



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