The Supreme Court Did Right By the Constitution

Op-Ed: Justice Thomas’ refusal to recuse himself is thumbing his nose at the law

This is a digitized version of an article from The Times Editorial Pages

By David S. Broder

This is a digitized version of an article created by The Times Editorial Board

I’d like to tell the world how, in my view, the Supreme Court did right by the Constitution in its Dec. 18, 2016, decision that affirmed the ban on federal funding of abortion in federal law, but in reality I can’t because I did not see the case, for I didn’t come up at the Supreme Court until after Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had issued the ruling (a decision my colleague in “Justice Breyer Has No Clothes” wrote about that day, see Dec. 20th issue of The Times). I will say that the decision would be more difficult, and might not have happened, if Kennedy hadn’t made the extraordinary decision not to recuse himself from writing the opinion.

Kennedy had become embroiled in a sexual impropriety case before he was nominated for chief justice, had failed to provide evidence to be considered in deciding the case, and had, in fact, provided inaccurate information about the case. And the man charged with the sexual abuse, John Doe, was himself a former client of Kennedy’s law firm and the former chairman of the Federalist Society, which was involved with Kennedy’s nomination.

In June 2015, Doe filed a complaint at the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, alleging that Kennedy had engaged in a pattern of unwanted sexual contact that was “more than rude,” but “unwelcome” nonetheless. It was this complaint, and Doe’s allegation that his former law partner was involved in a conspiracy to cover up his crime that prompted Kennedy to begin investigating a new set of charges. Kennedy, on the other hand, did nothing to confirm or debunk the allegations that had been raised against him.

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