I think it’s pretty clear by now that I am loathe to defend Trump or agree with literally anything he says. The man is a blight on the American political system, an embarrassment to the Republican party, and a threat to the future of the country as we know it.
In other words, I substantially agree with many of the criticisms leveled at Trump by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. However, I agree with Trump that it is an embarrassment and a disgrace for her to be making these criticisms, and that if she had a whit of integrity or respect for the court, she should resign in disgrace.
Look, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is entitled to have her opinions about issues and philosophy and to speak them in public. Supreme Court Justices have long toured the country on speaking tours to law schools and other organizations, especially when the court is not in session, and have talked about issues that at least touch on politics. All that is fine.
But what Ginsburg has done, by stooping to single out Trump specifically, is clearly out of line and in my view, clearly violates numerous canons of judicial ethics, especially those pertaining to maintaining the impartiality of the judiciary. Donald Trump is, like it or not (and I don’t) a serious candidate for the Presidency. There is at least a nonzero chance that he might win. If he does, he and his administration will come before the Supreme Court regularly, as Presidential administrations often do.
How would anyone possibly believe that Ginsburg could be impartial in ruling on the activities of Trump or his administration, after her public comments? Look, we all have varying levels of cynicism about the extent to which the various liberal and conservative members of the court are capable of being impartial towards administrations that are Democrat/Republican, but the reality is that in a whole lot of cases – especially those that don’t touch on hot button partisan issues, but are nonetheless very important – the court doesn’t always neatly split along ideological lines.
The Obama adminstration, for instance, has been frequently overruled by a unanimous Supreme Court – including by justices that he personally nominated. Roberts and Alito frequently voted against the Bush administration (as did Scalia, Thomas, and Rehnquist, and everyone else). There are a lot of issues where I think it is fair to say that the Justices don’t do a very good job of even pretending to be nonpartisan, and those get the most press and headlines. But on a huge number of issues, their real, actual impartiality is very much at issue, and the appearance of impartiality even more so.
Judges are supposed to care about that stuff. And I don’t mean “supposed to” in the sense that there’s some amorphous unwritten code out there that they are free to ignore, I mean “supposed to” in the sense of actual an actual ethics code that they are supposed to apply to themselves with the threat of at least potential discipline (including removal from cases, public censure, etc.)
I don’t care what RBG thinks about the Presidential race or whether I agree with some or any of it, she should have known better than to open her mouth and let these opinions fall out of it. Her failure to do so was a disgrace to her office and if she had any integrity she would, in fact, resign. Of course, anyone who would say publicly that they were glad their former colleague was dead has definitely ruled out having any integrity so of course that won’t happen.