The following Wespeak was collectively authored by a number of involved students, including the following: Virgil Taylor ’15, Ross Levin ’15, Nico Vitti ’12, Paul Blasenheim ’12, Zak Kirwood ’12, Cheryl Walker ’12, Meggie McGuire ’12, Mariama Eversley ’14, Isabelle Gauthier ’14, Josh Krugman ’14, Joseph Cribb ’13, Hannah Rubin ’13, Cesar Chavez ’15, Dan Fischer ’12, and Mica Taliaferro ’12. Though it may be written from a first-person perspective, it should be taken as a collective statement of these signers and the larger collective organizing dissent for Scalia’s arrival.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia not only has the distinction of using his position to defend anti-sodomy laws, to aid in the unleashing of a torrent of corporate money onto our elections, to argue in favor of the execution of minors, and to appoint George Bush as President, he has also been the focus of three corruption scandals in the past decade. Antonin Scalia is not merely a powerful player in the United States government with whom many members of the Wesleyan community disagree–he is a powerful player in the United States government who uses the privilege of his position to his own (and his political compatriots’) advantage, in an ethically and legally questionable manner that harms what small amount of democratic integrity the government might claim. Thus many of the common complaints against Justice Scalia hold more weight than merely natural, healthy democratic dialogue. Instead, as explained below, Scalia’s corruption puts humans and the natural world at risk, while at the same time further skewing our system of governance toward the rich and powerful. It is extremely important to clearly voice opposition to such a force which only serves to calcify the corruption present in our government.
In 2004, Scalia refused to recuse himself from a case challenging Dick Cheney’s secret Energy Task Force. A personal friend of Cheney, who personally faced paying damages because of the case, the two had just recently gone on a duck hunting trip in Louisiana, hosted by an executive of an energy company that played a role in the Energy Task Force. Yet the Justice saw no conflict of interest here. Another time, Scalia played an essential role in a fundraising event for the Federalist Society, which cost several hundred dollars to participate in, “suggesting that Scalia improperly lent the prestige of his office to a partisan organization,” according to Legal Times. The final scandal was brought to light by the group Common Cause around the time of the Citizens United ruling. Justice Scalia had, along with Justice Clarence Thomas, participated in a conference organized by the infamous and, especially since those two enabled them through Citizens United, check-happy electioneers the Koch Brothers. The purpose of the conference was to strategize on organizing corporate moneyed political forces. When hearing Citizens United, which benefitted the Koch Brothers and other allies present at the conference to a great degree, Justice Scalia did not see this as a conflict of interest.
On these occasions, Antonin Scalia does not blatantly flout the law. Scalia’s ethical obfuscations are still extremely problematic. He did not recuse himself from cases which greatly affected groups with which he was connected, and he used his position to help ideological political groups. Scalia has excelled at pushing the boundaries of what is legally and ethically acceptable, without obviously going beyond them. The amount of room he has to do this raises some broader questions about the system in which he operates. Why do the existing laws allow Justice Scalia to have so much ethical wiggle room? Why have there not been consequences for these ethical indiscretions? More broadly, and more importantly, why as a society do we choose to give any one person so much power that wining and dining them threatens the democratic integrity of our system of governance as a whole?