ABC News goes after Justice Antonin Scalia today for attending gratis a Federalist Society conference last year in Colorado.
What's the charge? After trumpeting the story with an eye-catching "EXCLUSIVE: Supreme Ethics Problem?" headline and the byline of ABC's "chief investigative correspondent" (my! this must be hot stuff!), Brian Ross, ABC doesn't have the guts to make one.
Instead, following a grand journalistic gotcha tradition, Ross reports that the trip "raises questions" and then finds someone else to suggest the charge that he won't make himself: "according to some legal experts." Actually, Ross has only one legal expert: quote master (he shows up in major newspapers and wires 119 times in the last year) and law professor Stephen Gillers.
Gillers was one of the so-called experts who said Judge Alito's investment in Vanguard mutual funds was a conflict of interest. He has also whined about Scalia in the past, saying, "He's combative. He's in your face....He does not have what most people think of as a judicial demeanor."
Gillers and Ross don't spell out any ethical problem. Gillers offers a very sophisticated ethical analysis: "[The Federalist Society] are a group with a decided political-slash-judicial profile." Accepting gifts from such a group is not against the Court's ethical rules, which Ross admits.
This article is nothing more than smear by proxy and innuendo. Scalia has done nothing against the law, against formal ethics rules, or against unofficial ethical standards.
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