Monday, January 19, 2004

Scalia Poo-Poos Conflict of Interest

Government watchdogs are raising concerns about a potential conflict of interest for Justice Antonin Scalia because he had dinner and went on a hunting trip with Dick Cheney while the Supreme Court was involved in a case about the vice president's energy task force.

Scalia and Cheney, longtime friends, had dinner at a restaurant on Maryland's Eastern Shore in November, two months after the Bush administration asked the justices to overrule a lower court's decision requiring the White House to identify task-force members.

The men went duck hunting in Louisiana this month, not long after the court agreed to hear the case.

Scalia says there is no reason to question his ability to judge the case fairly. Cheney's office referred questions about the propriety of the social encounters to the court.

Watchdogs said Scalia and Cheney should have kept their distance until the court had ruled.

"It gives the appearance of a tainted process where decisions are not made on the merits where you have judges fraternizing with people before the court," said Charles Lewis, director of the Center for Public Integrity.

. . .

Scalia, in a written statement to the Los Angeles Times for its story Saturday on the duck hunting trip, said: "I do not think my impartiality could reasonably be questioned."

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