The Washington Post is running some pretty scary stuff this morning about out Supreme Court justices. Rather than the cloistered, nearly unrecognizable justices like retired John Paul Stevens, these younger ones are acquiring an almost cult like following. For example:
At the invitation of Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Scalia will be addressing new conservative members of the House of Representatives. To them, Scalia is a nothing short of a rock star. He personifies not only conservative values but a new model for the Supreme Court: the celebrity justice.
Where Scalia has ventured with crowd-pleasing rhetoric, other justices are following. They rally their bases on the right or the left with speeches, candid interviews, commencement addresses and book tours. They appear to be abandoning the principle of strict neutrality in public life, long a touchstone of service on the highest court.
Whatever happened to court neutrality? It sounds like cases are predetermined, before they are even heard. Why would Justice Scalia appear before conservative members of the House of Representatives only? When will they start accepting honoraria?
The Bachmann event takes this posturing to a new level. Scalia will be directly advising new lawmakers who came to Congress on a mission to remake government in a more conservative image. Many of them made pledges to repeal health-care reform, restrict immigration and investigate the president – pledges based on constitutional interpretations that might end up before the court.
At best, Scalia’s appearance can be viewed as a pep talk. At worst, it smacks of a political alliance.
At best, this behavior is conflict of interest. The three branches of government need to remain independent. It certainly doesn’t seem very conservative to allow this kind of cross pollination. Perhaps ‘conservative’ is just a label of convenience.
…Scalia is the first real celebrity justice. When he appears at conservative events, supporters line up to greet a man who seems more oracle than orator. They are drawn not just to his originalist views but to the sense that he is a purist on a court of relativists. And his fans are often rewarded with a zinger from the justice that would set the hair of every liberal on fire.