U.S. Justice Scalia Refuses to Recuse in Cheney Caseby Reuters
Environmental News Network, March 19, 2004
WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia refused to remove himself from a case about Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force Thursday and said his impartiality could not be questioned despite their recent duck-hunting trip.
"Since I do not believe my impartiality can reasonably be questioned, I do not think it would be proper for me to recuse," he said in a 21-page memorandum.
The Sierra Club environmental group, which sued Cheney for the task force papers, filed a motion last month asking that Scalia be disqualified from the case because the January trip had created an appearance of impropriety.
Scalia was Cheney's guest on Air Force Two on a Jan. 5 flight to Louisiana. The trip was hosted by Wallace Carline, who runs his own company that provides services and equipment rental to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
"The vice president and I were never in the same blind and never discussed the case," Scalia said, referring to a shelter used to conceal duck hunters. "Nor was I alone with him at any time during the trip, except, perhaps for instances so brief and unintentional that I would not recall them — walking to or from a boat, perhaps, or going to or from dinner," Scalia said.
"Of course, we said not a word about the present case," said Scalia, one of the court's staunchest conservatives, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, in 1986.
Cheney is being sued by the Sierra Club and another group. They want him to release documents about White House contacts with the energy industry in 2001. The vice president has appealed to the Supreme Court a ruling ordering him to produce the documents.
Scalia said the flight down to Louisiana cost the government nothing because space was available on the plane. Scalia, who went with his son and son-in-law, said they did not come back with Cheney and had bought round-trip tickets.
"Justice Scalia misses the point. There's a problem when a justice and a litigant meet secretly at a private hunting retreat, regardless of what happens behind closed doors," said David Willett, a Sierra Club spokesman.
"It is the appearance of secrecy and impropriety that creates the problem, and it clearly has caused a public outcry here," he said, adding that if Scalia and Cheney had disclosed the facts two months ago the reaction might have been different.
"We wish that Vice President Cheney would be as forthcoming with the details of the secret energy task force as Justice Scalia has now been with their vacation together," Willett said.
A spokesman for Cheney said, "Justice Scalia has addressed this issue and I will defer to comments he has made."
Both Scalia and Cheney worked in the government when Gerald Ford was president in the mid-1970s. Scalia described Cheney as "an enthusiastic duck hunter" and as a friend "with whom I am well acquainted."
He said his impartiality had not been questioned before the trip, despite his friendship. He said the question was whether someone would think he could not decide the case impartially because he went hunting with Cheney and accepted an invitation to fly with him on a government plane.
"If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined," Scalia said.
He said the trip had been set long before the court agreed in December to decide the case and even before the government's appeal on Cheney's behalf had been filed.
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