Brian Ross of ABC reports that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia missed the swearing-in of new Chief Justice John Roberts because he was attending a legal seminar at a resort in Colorado. On Good Morning America today, ABC switched back and forth between Scalia playing tennis at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Bachelor Gulch, Colorado, and Roberts during his swearing-in, a ceremony attended by the other seven justices.
Two charges here. 1) Scalia should have been at the swearing-in of his new chief. Yes. It's a big event. Scalia was committed to a Federalist Sociey conference at the resort. Could he have flown to D.C. and back quickly and still kept his promise to attend the conference? We don't know. He spent two nights at the seminar. 2) Scalia's attendance at the seminar, including tennis and fishing, was of "dubious ethical propriety," New York University law professor Stephen Gillers said on camera for ABC. Gillers is a non-admirer of Scalia, but not introduced that way by ABC.
He also writes for The Nation magazine and is a board member of the Nation Institute. Still, Gillers has a point. Everyone knows Scalia is conservative, so it is probably best of him not to go duck-hunting with Dick Cheney or accepting free trips from the conservative/libertarian Federalist Society.
Still, Justice Stephen Breyer attends Renaissance Weekends in Charleston, South Carolina, each New Year's. I don't know if he is comped, as Scalia was in Colorado, but if I were running Renaissance, I wouldn't charge a sitting Supreme Court justice a fee. Rernaissance is hardly a high-powered legal society, but it is a liberal group (I was one of seven or eight identifiable conservatives there this year, out of a total attendance of about 1,800) And there are lots of liberal lawyers around to shmooze with Breyer the way the conservative lawyers shmoozed with Scalia in Colorado. Linda and Phil Lader, whom I very much admire, run Renaissance as a non-political event, with no partisan comments allowed on panels, and no booing of the visiting conservative specimens either. Still, when panelists use the word "we," it's usually a reference to the Democratic party. Should Breyer skip Renaissance? No. Should Scalia skip Federalist seminars? Maybe. Maybe not.