Stepping Over the Line

Hon. Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, a justice of the US Supreme Court, said in a newspaper interview that she would consider moving to New Zealand if Donald Trump became president of the United States.  It was first reported in the NY Times, but I saw it in the NY Post.  I have never heard of any federal judge, especially a member of the Supreme Court, saying anything like this.  Why?   Because it’s specifically prohibited by Code of Conduct for United States Judges.  This is from the website 

“Canon 5: A Judge Should Refrain from Political Activity

(A) General Prohibitions. A judge should not:

(1) act as a leader or hold any office in a political organization;

(2) make speeches for a political organization or candidate, or publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for public office; or

(3) solicit funds for, pay an assessment to, or make a contribution to a political organization or candidate, or attend or purchase a ticket for a dinner or other event sponsored by a political organization or candidate.

(B) Resignation upon Candidacy. A judge should resign the judicial office if the judge becomes a candidate in a primary or general election for any office.

(C) Other Political Activity. A judge should not engage in any other political activity. This provision does not prevent a judge from engaging in activities described in Canon 4.”

This judicial canon applies to all federal judges, part-time, full-time and retired with exceptions made, under certain circumstances, for retired federal magistrates and retired federal bankruptcy judges.  It does apply to members of the US Supreme Court.

It’s astonishing that any sitting Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court would publicly oppose a candidate for President of the United States.  It’s also astonishing that Justice Bader-Ginsburg would consider this course of action.  If Trump were elected and she abandoned her post it would be antithetical to her political beliefs and interests.  It would allow a Republican President to appoint another member of the U.S. Supreme Court.  For the record, I’d be appalled by her statement if she had endorsed Donald Trump instead of saying she’d consider moving to New Zealand if he were elected.  This country, since its inception, has prohibited federal judges from participating in electoral politics.

I haven’t researched it thoroughly, but the last Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court that I recall participating in electoral politics is Arthur Goldberg.  He resigned from the court before running against incumbent governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York in 1970.  He lost.

What surprises me more than anything else about this is that it hasn’t created a public outcry.  I am glad to hear that she has been criticized for the comment by some political commentators and especially heartened by a tweet from Howard Wolfson who was an aide to Hillary Clinton and to NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Wolfson tweeted: 

“I  RBG but I don’t think our Supreme Court justices should be publicly offering their opinions about POTUS candidates.”

Good on Mr. Wolfson.  This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.  The Justice has crossed a line she should not have drawn.

Author: Tom

I know by ABC's, I can write my name, and I can count to 100.