More and more, it seems that the answer is NO, no matter how great the appearance of conflict of interest. Justice Thomas’s wife is active in groups that pursue the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act (“Obamacare”), having received as of May 2011, $150,000 from such a group, and the Supreme Court is about to begin hearing arguments, aiming for a decision possibly in June. And Roberts perceives this as no conflict of interest. And Thomas has no plans to recuse himself.
Roberts draws an equivalence between Thomas and Justice Kagan, who was, prior to her nomination to the Supreme Court, solicitor general to the Obama administration, i.e., she could have been… but was not… called upon to defend the Obamacare act. But of course there is no suggestion that Kagan or a member of her family accepted money to oppose (or support) the law. It would have been her job… if it had come up, which it didn’t. So Roberts is drawing a false equivalence.
I cannot help thinking of that evil “nice guy,” Justice Scalia, who ruled in favor of Bush/Cheney in Bush v. Gore despite being a social friend of Dick Cheney. Apparently, no Republican-appointed judge or justice can ever be guilty of a conflict of interest, no matter what s/he does… IOKIYAR.
A conservative Republican former friend of mine… he pretty much doesn’t speak to me anymore… once sententiously pontificated explained to me that it was important to Christians (he is one; I am not) not only to do the right thing, but to give the appearance of doing the right thing. I suppose there’s a secret exception to that rule specifically for Republican judges, who are considered “of exceptional integrity” (Roberts) no matter what godawful conflict of interest they engage in. I suppose “exceptional” can mean “exceptionally good” or “exceptionally bad” …