Kimberly Atkins Stohr’s piece on “wining and dining” the Supreme Court justices shines a light on a problem that seldom sees the light of day (”Supreme Court wining, dining, and leaking no light matter,” Opinion, Nov. 25). Supreme Court justices enjoy privileges that no other American enjoys. Out of 330 million Americans, the nine Americans who serve as justices are guaranteed their jobs for life with no real risk of removal. Of the 117 justices who have served since 1790, none has ever been removed. The justices conduct their business in secret and are accountable to no one. Unlike every other judge, and every lawyer, in America, Supreme Court justices have excused themselves from a code of ethics. None of this may matter when the justices are persons of high character, impeccable ethics, and apolitical. However, Stohr’s column exposes troubling practices by some of the current justices that have affected the public’s perception of the court and cast doubt on the court’s important work.
Rather than changing the size of the court, Congress should enact legislation to require that Supreme Court justices adhere to the same rules that apply to every other judge and lawyer in America. Justices should not be attending or speaking at meetings where attendees have a political agenda. They should not be writing books indicating their views on matters affecting the lives of Americans. They should not be sitting on cases involving issues in which they or any member of their family is involved. And they should not be sponsoring any group that accepts money for organizations connected to the Supreme Court. The justices persuaded the Senate to confirm them for life to decide cases in a fair and impartial way free of outside influences, especially involving lawyers, parties, or issues that likely will come before them. They were not given their positions to write books, give speeches, or “wine and dine” with people who have Supreme Court agendas.
Thomas F. Maffei
The writer is a past president of the Massachusetts Bar Association.