Earlier this week Louise Slaughter, Persephone’s favorite badass Congresswoman, went on Countdown with Keith Olbermann to talk about a new proposal to consider retroactive recusal for Supreme Court Justices who decided on cases in which they had a conflict of interest. Specifically, this would apply to Clarence Thomas and his wife’s connections to the Citizens United case.
In the interview with Olbermann above (which is definitely worth a watch if you have the time), Congresswoman Slaughter says:
We’ve asked both sides [for an investigation]. We’ve written to the Republicans and the Democrats, the majority and minority heads of that committee, to ask them to please find out what happens to a Supreme Court justice who flaunts the law. As you know, being Supreme is supreme. They are not bound by ethics laws like the rest of the judiciary. I am on a piece of legislation to try to change that, because this, I think, has made it absolutely necessary. But we’re not judging guilt or innocence. We want the people who are able to do it to make that judgment. But it is really quite startling to us that this has gone on all these years. … There is such a thing as a retroactive recusal. We’re looking into that. That case [Citizens United], if you remember, was decided 5-4. If we could take away his vote, we could wipe that out. It would lose.
In a perfect world, Supreme Court Justices would recuse themselves voluntarily before hearing or voting on any cases in which they or their immediate family members (in the case of Justice Scalia’s wife in the Citizens United case) had a direct interest. Congressional-imposed retroactive recusal would be a huge check on the judicial branch the likes of which hasn’t been seen before. With the ideological balance of the Supreme Court so close, the ability to review recusal for prior cases could have a real effect on results.
So what do you folks think? I know we have a number of lawyerly types in our midst. Do you think this is a good idea? Bad idea? A way to limit potential pressure on Supreme Court Justices? Too much room for unintended consequences? Let’s hear it in the comments.