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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Corrupt judges on the Supreme Court

When Sandra Day O'Conner retired CNN came out with an article talking about the relatively low salaries of Supreme Court Justices. and they claimed:

"But one thing they won't get a chance to do is make a boatload of money in the process."

If only. 

It is true that they should make a really good salary, and they do, but do we really want their salary to be competitive with corporate Americans. The article continues:

"Whoever replaces O'Connor will undoubtedly have one of the finest legal minds in the country. He or she will also have a paycheck of less than $200,000 a year, compared with an average of over $5 million for corporate executives.

You can look up their salary, it's up to 223,000$ now and the articles will still tell you it is fixed, not that much, etc.... But that turns out to not be true. It might have been true for relatively honest people like Sandra Day O'Conner, but it is not necessarily even true about them. So we get the advertizing about our saintly judges (from same article):

'There is a motivational force that is not money," said Paul Hodgson, a compensation specialist at the Portland, Maine based research group the Corporate Library, in explaining why people become civil servants. "If you're a lawyer and you're not motivated by money, that would probably seem like the most important job there is."'

Sure, we are supposed to play the violin for them.

"Hodgson said the compensation discrepancy is especially acute for Supreme Court justices because, unlike many other high-level public employees, their lifetime appointment means they will most likely not return to the lucrative private sector."

But this becomes meaningless if they are able to break judicial ethics rules and receive outside compensation From the Private sector as these rule changes made possible. Paying officials too much makes them vulnerable to ego inflation, but paying them too little or giving them license to make unlimited outside income makes them susceptable to bribery!

Actually the compensation discrepancy is an issue because every time the government fails to pay officers the officers make up any discrepancy (real or perceived) with corruption. No wonder Kennedy ruled in a case that applied to lower courts that:

"That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy"."

But Kennedy and the other Judges exempt themselves from those rules!

Bribery is defined! under title 18 as:

" directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official...or ...give anything of value to any other person or entity, with intent— "

And all this to:

"(A) to influence any official act..."

Bribery isn't just piling a heap on goods on a desk. It also takes more subtle forms such as making deals while playing golf. Or simply attending the same functions and paying ones wife! Are we to believe that the Supreme Court can exempt itself from the appearance of corruption?

So the Heritage foundation doesn't employ Clarence Thomas' wife in order to influence Clarence Thomas? When the Supreme Court made it's Massey ruling, which it cited in it's corrupt Citizens United decision, the mere appearance of possible corruption, and not even a smoking gun of evidence of such influence was enough for them to rule that the Judge should have recused itself. So how do we excuse Clarence Thomas? We shouldn't. Open Secrets notes:

"U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for instance, made headlines last month for failing to disclose years' worth of income his wife had earned -- including more than $686,500 between 2003 and 2007 from the Heritage Foundation."

Heritage Foundation campaigned for Thomas to get on the Supreme Court, and now they reward him, directly, by employing his wife. This isn't just the appearance of corruption. According to Title 18 a case can be made this is the reality. Pay in such a case can be presumed to be indirect gift for the sake of influencing his decision making. Of course with our Supreme Court Justices they were selected, groomed, and rewarded on the basis of such influence over a long period of time. One can say that these corrupt organizations pretty much created them in the first place. So it's no wonder the Supreme Court pretends that just because there is obvious influence and association between organizations like Heritage foundation and the Judges and politicians they create and maintain, and the wealthy individuals who pay Heritage Foundation to promote their personal seditious and corrupt purposes -- that just because there is the appearance of corruption (which is what they were saying in the Citizens United Case) doesn't mean there is the reality. Oh, no Thomas' hiding his wife's income was just an accounting error!

But of course though one can look up the disclosure statements of Supreme Court Justices, one can't know whether they are corrupt or not unless they disclose their income.

Open Secrets reports a relatively modest list of "outside incomes" for the Justices for instance:

RankNameGrand TotalMember TotalSpouse TotalDependent Total
1Stephen G. Breyer$46,812$46,812$0$0
2Antonin Scalia$45,655$45,655$0$0
3Clarence Thomas$26,955$26,955$0$0
3Samuel A. Alito$26,955$26,955$0$0
5Anthony M. Kennedy$26,500$26,500$0$0
6Ruth Bader Ginsburg$23,000$23,000$0$0
7Elena Kagan$15,000$15,000$0$0
7John G. Roberts$15,000$15,000$0$0     

But do you see Clarence Thomas' spouse reported, no? All of them have net worth in the millions.

RankNameMinimum Net WorthAverageMaximum Net Worth
1Ruth Bader Ginsburg$5,415,015$14,265,007$23,115,000
2Stephen G. Breyer$4,760,058$10,647,529$16,535,000
3John G. Roberts$2,680,039$4,542,519$6,405,000
4Sonia Sotomayor$1,225,010$3,477,505$5,730,000
5Antonin Scalia$1,885,023$3,142,511$4,400,000
6Clarence Thomas$715,014$1,317,507$1,920,000
7Elena Kagan$600,017$1,080,008$1,560,000
8Samuel A. Alito$380,006$740,003$1,100,000
9Anthony M. Kennedy$330,004$515,002$700,000

Oh well. So we aren't talking "quid pro quo" corruption are we. We are talking influence cultivated over a period of years; such as Kagan's involvement with Goldman Sachs, or the Gang of Five and the Federalist Society.  Maybe some of the influences are benign. Kennedy gives speeches for the Annenberg and Colonial Williamsburg foundation. But Thomas' relationship to the Heritage foundation is a scandal, and he doesn't ever recuse himself from decisions where his opinions just happen to match theirs.  So the point? Separate and privileged access are the heart of corruption, and denying that is itself corrupt. There are two kinds of corruption, one is legal corruption, and the other is when a process is degraded. In the second sense, the mere appearance of corruption is itself corrupt.

This article is a follow on to an earlier post on "Corruption, Racketeering and the Supreme Court:

Related Posts:
A Corrupt Court, Tuesday, June 26, 2012:
A corrupt decision blind to corrupt access and influence October 8, 2013:
Corruption, Racketeering and the Supreme Court, Wednesday, October 16, 2013:
Corrupt judges on the Supreme Court. October 23, 2013:
Corrupt Court and Undue Influence and access according to Founders, Thursday, March 27, 2014:
The Expected Corrupt Decision by a corrupt court, Saturday, April 5, 2014:
Is Quid Pro Quo the only kind of corruption that Government can regulate. April 5, 2014:
Undue influence and Dependency Corruption or why the Supreme Court Decision was so corrupt, April 21st, 2014:

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