Supreme Court Justices are the only federal judges who aren’t forced to follow any formal code of conduct, and Justice Neil Gorsuch seems to be taking advantage of it.
A Politico op-ed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) reported Wednesday that mere days before Gorsuch returned to work for the highest court in the land, he was hobnobbing with an organization funded by Charles and David Koch, who have a vested interest in his decisions.
To make matters worse, the luncheon in which he was a keynote speaker took place at the Trump International Hotel.
“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,” Warren wrote.
On the same day as the speech, the Supreme Court said that it would hear the case Janus v. AFSCME, which will decide whether unions that represent teachers, nurses, firefighters and police can collect fees to be part of the union. Gorsuch isn’t expected to support the union, and there’s a risk workers will lose their collective bargaining power.
The speech was hosted by the Fund for American Studies, which sounds innocuous but is funded by the Koch brothers, as well as the Bradley Foundation. The Kochs are well known for investing in “limited government” causes that promote “free markets” and “weaker unions.” The Bradley Foundation paid for the lawsuit on the Janus side of the case Gorsuch will be deciding.
“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,” Warren continued.
She went on to explain that this isn’t the first time there have been concerns about the ethics of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts owned as much as $500,000 in Time Warner stock while deciding a case about a small television streaming service that would impact his own stock in Time Warner — yet Roberts never recused himself.
As of 2016, Justices Roberts, Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito owned shares in 53 publicly traded companies, according to transparency group Fix the Court.
Warren closed by explaining Sen. Chris Murphy’s (D-CT) Supreme Court Ethics Act is the way to fix the problem.