The following is an excerpt from Mark Joseph Stern | August 29, 2017 | Slate.com |
On Tuesday, ethics watchdog Common Cause sent a letter to Justice Neil Gorsuch urging him to cancel an upcoming speech at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Gorsuch is delivering his remarks at a luncheon hosted by the Fund for American Studies, a conservative nonprofit that promotes free-market ideology. The invite-only event “will celebrate 50 years of TFAS and the constitutional framework that has protected our free society and made America exceptional.” Common Cause argues that Gorsuch’s participation violates the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, which is not binding on Supreme Court justices but serves as “a key source of guidance.” (The justices decide ethics issues individually and cannot be compelled to follow the code.)
In her letter, Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn argues that Gorsuch’s speech may run afoul of ethics rules because it qualifies as both a fundraiser and a conflict of interest. On both these counts, Flynn is wrong. A close reading of the code confirms that the justice’s participation does not directly contravene any specific ethics rules. But if Gorsuch respects the broader principle of the rules, he should withdraw from the event anyway. The Trump International Hotel is a political haunt that attracts unscrupulous officials, dubious associates, and would-be cronies. And Gorsuch’s decision to speak there will only exacerbate understandable concern on the left that he is not fully independent of the president who appointed him.
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