Saturday, February 07, 2004
::: Cheney & Scalia Need To Get Their Ducks Taped :::
PATTERSON, La. — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia traveled as an official guest of Vice President Dick Cheney on a small government jet that served as Air Force Two when the pair came here last month to hunt ducks.
The revelation cast further doubts about whether Scalia can be an impartial judge in Cheney's upcoming case before the Supreme Court, legal ethics experts said. The hunting trip took place just weeks after the high court agreed to take up Cheney's bid to keep secret the details of his energy policy task force.
According to those who met them at the small airstrip here, the justice and the vice president flew from Washington on Jan. 5 and were accompanied by a second, backup Air Force jet that carried staff and security aides to the vice president.
Two military Black Hawk helicopters were brought in and hovered nearby as Cheney and Scalia were whisked away in a heavily guarded motorcade to a secluded, private hunting camp owned by an oil industry businessman.
The Times previously reported that the two men hunted ducks together while the case was pending, but it wasn't clear then that they had traveled together or that Scalia had accompanied Cheney on Air Force Two.
Several experts in legal ethics questioned whether Scalia should decide the case
Judges are bound by different rules, however. Federal law says that "any justice or judge shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might be questioned."
Two years ago, the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch sued Cheney, seeking to learn whether the vice president and his staff had met behind closed doors with lobbyists and corporate officials from the oil, gas, coal and electric power industries.
A judge ordered Cheney to turn over documents detailing who met with his energy task force. Cheney appealed, and in September, Bush administration lawyers asked the Supreme Court to hear the case and reverse the judge's order.
It "would violate fundamental principles of separation of powers" to force the president or the vice president to disclose who they met with, said U.S. Solicitor Gen. Theodore B. Olson.
After considering the appeal behind closed doors on three occasions, the Supreme Court on Dec. 15 announced that the case of "in re Richard B. Cheney" would be heard in the spring.
Scalia's Blind Eye
In mid-December, the high court voted to hear arguments in the appeal, now scheduled for April. Three weeks after that vote, Scalia and Cheney spent two days huddled together in a Louisiana marsh. Because the duck hunting was lousy, they had plenty of time to kill — and to talk privately.
Federal rules instruct a judge to disqualify himself "in any proceeding in which his impartiality might be questioned." Though these ethics rules apply to all federal courts, the Supreme Court does not have a formal policy for ensuring that individual justices follow them. Scalia has bristled at suggestions that he recuse himself or that his longtime friendship with Cheney — and their many past hunting trips — could bias his judgment.
Well ... ain't that just Ducky