Invoking history, law and the upper social strata of Washington, Justice Antonin Scalia said on Thursday that he would not remove himself from a case before the Supreme Court involving his good friend, Vice President Dick Cheney, The New York Times reports.
In a 21-page memorandum, a rare public explanation and rarer still for describing what it means to have friends in the highest of places, Justice Scalia said it was not improper that he hunted ducks in Louisiana with Mr. Cheney in January, just three weeks after the court agreed to consider the case.
Justice Scalia not only justified his participation in the case, he also disclosed new details of the trip. “I never hunted in the same blind with the vice president,” he wrote.
He also recounted other cases in which presidents and justices socialized without concerns about appearance. Citing historical accounts, he wrote of a time when Justice Harlan F. Stone “tossed around a medicine ball with members of the Hoover administration mornings outside the White House,” and when Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson “played poker with President Truman.” And who could forget those days when Justice John Marshall Harlan and his wife sang hymns at the White House with President Rutherford B. Hayes or when Justice Byron R. White skied in Colorado with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy?
Justice Scalia argued forcefully that friendship is a basis for recusal only “where the personal fortune or the personal freedom of the friend is at issue,” not a friend’s actions on behalf of the government. As a result, he wrote, he had no justification to step aside. A Supreme Court justice’s decision on recusal is final and cannot be challenged.