Clinton-appointed federal judge launches blistering attack on Supreme Court justices over alleged ethics failures

 July 16, 2023

For many years now, but especially following the 2022 Dobbs ruling on abortion, the ideological left -- including activists, Democrats, and media allies -- has waged a coordinated attack on the Supreme Court, particularly its Republican-nominated members, intended to undermine public trust in the vaunted institution, most recently via dubious claims of ethical shortfalls.

That concerted assault on the nation's highest court continued this week with a published op-ed from a sitting senior federal judge who sharply criticized the purported failings of the "Supreme Court's sense of smell" in terms of avoiding alleged ethical quandaries, which was cheered on by MSNBC's left-leaning legal blog.

In fact, the subheadline on the MSNBC piece -- "A judge who’s actually bound by ethical rules, and apparently follows them, provides some useful perspective" -- clearly implied, and later stated directly in the body of the article, that the conservative-leaning justices needed to take heed of the subordinate judge's advice.

The left's newest champion enters the arena

Writing for The New York Times, senior U.S. District Judge Michael Ponsor of Massachusetts took note of how he and all other federal judges are "bound and guided by a written code of conduct" that does not apply to the nine justices of the Supreme Court, as they instead are trusted to have "functioning noses" to help them avoid the "dubious aroma" of ethically questionable behavior.

He shared a couple of examples from his own career of such situations he had avoided -- including turning down free tickets to a Boston Red Sox game offered by an attorney friend and rejecting a handcrafted wooden pencil box offered as a gift by an elderly plaintiff he'd ruled in favor of.

"All my judicial colleagues, whoever has appointed them, run into situations like these regularly, and I expect they have responded in just the same way," Ponsor wrote. "You don’t just stay inside the lines; you stay well inside the lines. This is not a matter of politics or judicial philosophy. It is ethics in the trenches."

Federal judge attacks his superiors

The federal judge, who became a magistrate judge in 1984 and was appointed to his current district court bench by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, then launched his direct assault on the high court by highlighting several of the various alleged ethics complaints that have arisen in recent months through coordinated media hit pieces, albeit without directly naming names.

"The recent descriptions of the behavior of some of our justices and particularly their attempts to defend their conduct have not just raised my eyebrows; they’ve raised the whole top of my head. Lavish, no-cost vacations? Hypertechnical arguments about how a free private airplane flight is a kind of facility? A justice’s spouse prominently involved in advocating on issues before the court without the justice’s recusal? Repeated omissions in mandatory financial disclosure statements brushed under the rug as inadvertent? A justice’s taxpayer-financed staff reportedly helping to promote her books? Private school tuition for a justice’s family member covered by a wealthy benefactor? Wow."

Judge Ponsor noted that when all of the nation's federal judges are accounted for -- including the magistrate, district, circuit, and Supreme Court levels -- there are only around 1,500 individuals who comprise the "core of our federal judiciary," and asserted that "Much depends on this small cohort’s acute sense of smell, its instinctive, uncompromising integrity and its appearance of integrity."

"If reports are true, some of our justices are, sadly, letting us down," he concluded. "To me, this feels personal. For the country, it feels ominous. What in the world has happened to the Supreme Court’s nose?"

All part of the left's broader strategy to co-opt or destroy the institution

That "guest essay" in the Times clearly falls within the "Left's scorch-earth strategy to retake the Supreme Court," as outlined in May by The Daily Signal, that previously was focused almost exclusively on "relentless character assassination" of conservative-leaning justices but has now been expanded to support efforts by congressional Democrats to impose new and stringent ethics standards on the independent head of the federal judiciary.

The strategy features three main tactics: "First, by pushing 'the idea that the current justices are deciding cases politically, rather than impartially.' Then by attacking the justices who don’t advance liberal interests by painting them as 'partisan, corrupt, or unethical.' Finally, by advancing legislation that would force the Supreme Court 'to produce a formal ethics code.'"

It was noted how "court-packing" efforts to expand the Supreme Court with additional liberal jurists have been stymied, and targeted efforts to force recusals on specific cases have similarly failed, so now, by way of activist organizations backed by Democrats and amplified by the media, the focus has turned to hamstring the high court altogether with new rules on ethics standards and disclosure requirements.

"With coordinated and relentless assaults, the Left intends to bring the Supreme Court to its heel. It makes a travesty of our system of government. The outside -- and inside -- attempts to destroy the Supreme Court’s legitimacy are a real threat to its future, regardless if the targeted justices back down to the Left’s demands," The Daily Signal concluded. "For the Left, it’s a win-win scenario. Co-opt the institution or destroy it, as long as the Left regains power. That is the mentality. But that’s a lose-lose for the country and for constitutionally limited government."

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