Gather round girls and boys for a little lesson. Justice Ginsburg has made the news for what many are calling inappropriate comments about Donald Trump. In short, they are not inappropriate.
First of all, regarding judicial codes of conduct. Yes, federal judges are not allowed by their ethical code to engage in partisan politics. Theoretically they don’t have to because they don’t have to run for office—they are appointed.
The Supreme Court, however, is not bound by this judicial code of conduct. They can do pretty much anything they want. The reason they go through such an intense confirmation process is so that Congress can look at their work over their legal career; review opinions written and decisions made. The idea is that the past is prologue – most of us behave much as we have in the past.
This week, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made headlines for her blunt comments about Donald Trump. She made it very clear that she does not think he is qualified to be President and in fact, fears for our country if he wins. Of course, the Republicans are in a tizzy and even such “balanced” tomes as the New York Times have weighed in stating her comments were inappropriate. Trump, of course, has tweeted about this and says she is an embarrassment (someone give that man a mirror).
Unfortunately, our distinguished media has, once again, failed to do their homework. Once again, facts and evidence seem not to matter.
On to the history lesson. Our first Chief Justice, John Jay became Governor of New York. He ran while he was still a sitting Justice. After losing in his first attempt, he won, and only then stepped down from the Court. David Davis ran for President in 1877 and avoided a Congressional tie-breaker by accepting a position of Senator. The most fascinating was Charles Hughes. As a sitting Justice, he ran against Woodrow Wilson (if you aren’t familiar with our history, Wilson won). He later became Secretary of State and, in 1930, after serving as a diplomat, returned to the Court to become Chief Justice.
Moving a little outside of politics but still interesting, the famous Warren Commission which investigated the assassination of John F. Kenned was run by Chief Justice Warren. The Nuremburg trials held after WWII at the International War Crimes Tribunal were prosecuted by Justice Jackson.
More recently, Justice Ailito, sitting in the audience at a State of the Union speech very visibly and clearly made his disdain for President Obama known when the President criticized the Citizens United decision. What is more political than that? Justice Scalia not only spoke frequently about political issues, but did so on Fox News. He attended Koch brothers gatherings, accepted trips from lobbyists, and was at a private hunting club (all expenses paid of course) when he died.
So. Can we all just let Justice Ginsburg say what she wants and perhaps give Donald Trump a copy of the Constitution?
To learn more about the Supreme Court, check out the Constitution Center, here