Senator Warren’s One-Way Ethical Street for the Supreme Court

When it comes to whom any of the conservative-leaning justices on the U.S. Supreme Court speak, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) clearly has issues. She said as much herself on Wednesday in an opinion piece published at Politico.

In it, Warren goes after the court’s newest member, Neil Gorsuch, for speaking at an event sponsored by two of the Left’s favorite targets: The Koch Brothers and the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation.

A few days before the Supreme Court returned from its summer break, Justice Neil Gorsuch, the court’s newest member, attended a luncheon at the Trump International Hotel, where he was to give the keynote address. The location of the speech attracted the attention of dozens of protesters and a number of ethics watchdogs, who noted the apparent conflict of interest posed by Justice Gorsuch—a Trump nominee—keynoting an event at a hotel whose revenue goes in part to President Trump. That arrangement was bad enough on its own. But there was another potential conflict of interest created by Justice Gorsuch’s speaking engagement—and it highlights the ongoing ethical issues that threaten the credibility of our nation’s highest court.


The same morning that Justice Gorsuch gave his speech, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear Janus v. AFSCME. This is a case that will determine whether public sector unions—which represent teachers, nurses, firefighters and police in states and cities across the country—can collect fees from all employees in the workplaces they represent. Justice Gorsuch is widely expected to deliver the court’s deciding vote to strip unions of this ability. A decision along these lines would seriously undercut workers’ freedom to have a real voice to speak out and fight for higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions.

Here’s the rub. Justice Gorsuch’s speech at the Trump hotel was hosted by the Fund for American Studies. And who funds the Fund of American Studies? The Charles Koch Foundation and the Bradley Foundation. The Charles Koch Foundation is dedicated to promoting limited government, free markets and weaker unions; and the Bradley Foundation has worked for decades to, in their own words, “reduce the size and power of public sector unions.” In fact, the Bradley Foundation helped pay the litigation expenses for Janus—the case in which Justice Gorsuch is likely to be the deciding vote. Think about that: Just as the ink was drying on the court’s announcement that it would hear Janus, Justice Gorsuch was off to hobnob with some of the biggest supporters for one side of this important case—the side that wants to deny workers the freedom to build a future that doesn’t hang by a thread at the whim of a few billionaires.

What Warren never comments on at all in her op-ed; which is designed as nothing more than free press for the establishment of recusal criteria for the U.S. Supreme Court, are the merits behind each ruling and how each justice used existing law and precedent to reach their decisions. All she seems to care about are distinct outcomes favorable to her liberal ideology.

Also, Warren’s criticism is nearly universally against the court’s conservative justices for her definition of “Ethical Standards.” In one example, the Massachusetts senator goes after Chief Justice John Roberts for ruling against a small streaming service which had violated copyright laws. Warren cites his ownership of Time Warner stock as the sole reason he should have recused himself from the case.

Such logic might have made sense if Time Warner was a party to the case; it wasn’t. Instead it filed a friend of the court brief, one which Roberts didn’t even quote from in the 6-3 majority opinion. An opinion not even written by the chief justice, but Justice Stephan Breyer – a Clinton appointee – and signed on by the other three liberal justices and Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Warren shows either her hypocrisy or ignorance to what other members of the court are doing with her op-ed’s final paragraph:

Federal judges are not supposed to be politicians or advocates. They are supposed to rise above the political winds of the day and demonstrate a single-minded commitment to one promise: equal justice under law. As judges of the nation’s highest court, it is time for Supreme Court justices to demonstrate that they can meet that standard.

Clearly, that doesn’t include the Left’s favorite Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who one week prior to oral arguments for Gill vs. Whitford, the Wisconsin redistricting case, Justice Ginsburg was telling CBSNews’ Charlie Rose how she felt about the case according to the Huffington Post.

A week before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a landmark case on how officials can draw electoral maps, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said people felt discouraged from voting because of the way districts were redrawn, something that was bad for democracy.

On Oct. 3, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a Wisconsin case in which the plaintiffs allege that Republican lawmakers violated the U.S. Constitution with redistricting that benefited their party in 2011. The Supreme Court has never said if that process, called partisan gerrymandering, violates the Constitution, but Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have joined in asking it to say it does. The court has treated gerrymandering based on race as a separate category and has struck down maps that have taken race into account too much when they were drawn and diminished the influence of certain groups of voters.

“It’s drawing a map so people think ‘Why bother voting? This is a secure Republican district or this is a secure Democratic district, so my vote doesn’t count.’ That’s not a good thing for democracy,” Ginsburg told CBS host Charlie Rose during an appearance at the 92nd Street Y in New York City on Tuesday.

No word yet from Warren’s office on whether Justice Ginsburg should have recused herself from Gill for her prejudgment of the case.

If Warren wishes to attack various judges for keynoting events funded by her political enemies, that’s her prerogative. But she would come off as more consistent in her viewpoint if she’d do the same to justices like Ginsburg, Elana Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayer, who speak frequently and often at liberal-leaning law schools, progressive foundations, and groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) (where Ginsburg once worked), who often argue before the high court.

For Warren to single out one side and foundations like Koch and Bradley, who are ideologically aligned to conservatives, but not those on aligned with progressives, highlights her true agenda. Warren’s demand for “standards” is meant to hide her demand for specific outcomes from the court, not consistency in the justice’s behavior.

Editor’s note: The Media Trackers Project receives funding from the Bradley Foundation.