Even liberals are criticizing Justice Ginsburg for her outrageous anti-Trump comments
Comments made by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg about Donald Trump are making even liberals uncomfortable.
Ginsburg "Just Risked her Legacy to Insult Trump," blares the headline at Slate. Author Mark Joseph Stern says her comments are "unethical" and "dangerous":
There is really very little to debate about the ethics of Ginsburg’s comments. They were plainly a violation, the kind of partisan partiality that judicial ethics codes strive to prevent. But Ginsburg, who is a quietly canny judicial and political strategist, surely knows that her comments were an ethical error. That leads to a fascinating question: Why would the justice risk her reputation and good standing—and even her power to hear cases involving Trump—for a few quick jabs at the candidate? The answer, I suspect, is that Ginsburg has decided to sacrifice some of her prestige in order to send as clear a warning signal about Trump as she possibly can. The subtext of Ginsburg’s comments, of her willingness to comment, is that Trump poses an unparalleled threat to this country—a threat so great that she will abandon judicial propriety in order to warn against looming disaster.
To be clear, what Ginsburg is doing right now—pushing her case against Trump through on-the-record interviews—is not just unethical; it’s dangerous. As a general rule, justices should refrain from commenting on politics, period. That dictate applies to 83-year-old internet folk heroes as strictly as it applies to anybody else who dons judicial robes. The independence of our judiciary—and just as critically, its appearance of impartiality—hinges on a consistent separation between itself and the other branches of government. That means no proclamations of loyalty to any candidate, or admissions of distaste of any other.
You don’t need to be a judicial ethicist to see the wisdom of this principle. Trump is a litigious man; should he take a campaign-related lawsuit to the court, Ginsburg will now surely be pressed to recuse herself. And of course, more significantly, these calls for recusal would accompany every case involving a possible Trump administration. (Through the Department of Justice, the executive branch is tasked with defending federal laws and presidential actions in court.) Moreover, Ginsburg’s comments all but begged Trump to respond—which he did on Tuesday, with a surprisingly coherent rebuke.
Democratic politicians were equally critical:
“We all know that the justices on the Supreme Court have political views. I’m not sure we’re well served by them airing them out in the open,” said Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut. “Those of who have been concerned about the open political leanings of conservatives like Clarence Thomas also have to be bear the same concerns about judges on the other side of the bench.”
Murphy has a bill that would force judges to disclose their affiliations with political groups, a measure generally viewed as taking aim at conservative jurists’ ties to Republican outfits. Liberal lawmakers have often linked conservative justices to Republican politicians; Thomas’ wife, for example, endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz in the presidential primary.
That’s what makes Ginsburg’s escalating criticism of Trump unnerving to some Democrats, prompting them to gently criticize Ginsburg, who’s beloved on the left.
“That’s not the ordinary type of thing Supreme Court justices say, but I can’t fault her accuracy,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). “I hesitate to criticize this. We’ve had judges attend the Koch brothers’ donor fest. By those standards it does not seem out of line, but I do think there’d be more respect for the court if the public felt it was less politicized.”
“She may have got out over her skis a little bit and [been] more forthright and political than she should have been. It’s very unusual,” added Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois.
Sorry, Dick. There's no such thing as an associate justice of the Supreme Court being "a little bit political." In fact, Ginsburg has placed the entire court in an impossible position. If Trump becomes president, any cases remotely involving the executive branch will be tainted if she is to sit in judgment on them.
The Supreme Court is political. The justices can read the polls as well as anyone, and it's a fantasy to believe that their political biases – right and left – aren't a part of their decision-making process. They are, after all, human and subject to the same emotions and prejudices as the rest of us.
To say they should rise above that is American folklore. The very good justices are able to hide their biases using sharp, clarifying legal arguments. But Ginsburg is making no attempt to hide anything. She is blatantly partisan and should either be impeached or forced to recuse herself when necessary.