Media’s Attempt to Undermine Faith in Supreme Court

February 2, 2023

Media's attempt to undermine faith in Supreme Court

Once again, the media has latched onto an attempt to undermine faith in our nation’s Supreme Court.

This latest spasm of outrage arises from a complaint against the wife of Chief Justice Roberts. Last December, a self-proclaimed whistleblower requested that congressional leadership investigate Mrs. Roberts. This recently published request alleged that Mrs. Roberts, who works for a high-profile legal recruiter, engaged in undisclosed business dealings with clients with cases before her husband’s Court. The request also claimed that, by failing to disclose these “conflicts,” Chief Justice Roberts himself violated federal statutes pertaining to judicial ethics.

The whistleblower’s letter strikes a concerning tone. More concerning, however, is that the media has leveraged these allegations to claim that the Supreme Court cannot govern its own affairs.

Many on the Left have recently clamored for enhanced legislative oversight of the federal judiciary. Left-wing lawmakers regularly amplify these claims in the wake of spectacular media reports such as those just lobbed at Chief Justice Roberts. Recent examples include the congressional hearings called over Justice Alito’s alleged Burwell leak” and Justice Thomas’s wife’s communications with allies of former President Trump. In all of these cases, the media has run a full-court-press to delegitimize the right of Justices to police their own conduct.

The recent surge in “reporting” on Supreme Court ethics comes with a concerningly partisan bent. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg served 27 years on the bench. However, it is odd to consider that no major outlets ever made a scandal out of her husband’s employment at a law firm with an extensive Supreme Court practice. Marty Ginsburg’s firm, Fried Frank, was even itself a party to a case heard by his wife.

Landmark has no reason to believe that Justice Ginsburg or her husband violated any federal ethics laws on account of these professional overlaps. But it is surprising that far less troubling “conflicts” by Ginsburg’s conservative counterparts generated such outlandish reactions from the press.[1]

Citizens of all political stripes should welcome an honest accounting for members of the federal bench. Transparency prevents scandals like those that occurred with Abe Fortas, an LBJ adviser turned Supreme Court Justice. In 1968, when President Johnson moved to promote his Fortas to the role of Chief Justice, it was revealed that Fortas’ wife pocketed cash contributions from a businessman under federal investigation. Justice Fortas had even written to the White House to advocate for his benefactor, a move which ultimately led to his resignation from the court.[2]

Today’s media, however, is not exposing such flagrant cases of fraud. Mainstream outlets are exaggerating milquetoast allegations against conservative justices while ignoring far more concerning activity by the liberals on the Court. Given such selective powers of observation, this coverage amount to a partisan attack against a Court whose Originalist leanings do not suit the ideologues on the Left.

[1] In treating the recent allegations against Mrs. Roberts, The Hill published an article titled “Ethics concerns raised over business ties of Supreme Court chief justice’s wife.” A Slate editorial alleged that Justice Roberts doesn’t believe there is “actually something to be done about ethical concerns” on his Court. MSNBC, pulling even fewer punches, ran the headline “ The Supreme Court keeps reminding us it doesn’t have a real ethics code.” All this handwringing, notwithstanding the multiple experts on judicial ethics who have agreed that “It feels hard to imagine how this would corrupt his vote.”

[2] Men in Black by Mark Levin, pg. 7-8




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