Questions Linger Over Death, Ethics Of Justice Scalia

 

Texas authorities bungled the death investigation last month of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and thereby caused needless fears of murder and other scandal, according to a retired high-level police executive speaking at the National Press Club March 9.

Antonin Scalia Supreme Court photoAuthorities should have performed an autopsy and other standard procedures to determine the cause of Scalia's death Feb. 13 at a luxury ranch in West Texas said William O. Ritchie, Jr., a former deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) in the nation's capital.

"Every death you investigate," Ritchie recalled telling his police subordinates, "is a homicide until proven otherwise."

Ritchie spoke during a press club panel discussion that also featured the two prize-winning Washington Post reporters who revealed that Scalia had been attending without normal security a gathering of an elite, all-male, secretive hunting society.

Reporters Sari Horwitz and Amy Brittain recounted how they unraveled step-by-step that Scalia attended for free over St. Valentine's Day weekend a meeting of the International Order of St. Hubertus -- and that only a few of the 36 guests are known at the five-star Cibolo Creek Ranch

John PoindexterMuch of official Washington quickly moved on from the death -- and its poorly sourced rumors of possible murder and other foul play, along with more substantive concerns about professional ethics -- in order to focus on Scalia's legacy and political jousting over his successor.

But the the Justice Integrity Project recruited three experts to discuss circumstances of the death before the press club's McClendon Group, a speaker society for important topics sometimes downplayed because they create discomfort in elite circles.

Chief Ritchie, a former MPD homicide commander, made front page news last month in the Washington Post by criticizing Texas authorities who deferred to Scalia's family and billionaire ranch owner John B. Poindexter by announcing that Scalia, 79, died of "natural causes" without an examination of the body and death scene by trained medical personnel.

Ritchie said the circumstances were "fishy." The U.S. Marshals Service said Scalia had declined a security detail at the Cibolo Creek Ranch owned by Poindexter, shown at right in a photo from his company.

Then the reporters revealed Feb. 24 that Scalia had been attending for free the St. Hubertus gathering along with C. Allen Foster, a prominent Washington lawyer who accompanied the justice on a plane trip to the ranch's private airstrip.

The ranch owner, whose John B. Poindexter Company benefited from last year’s Supreme Court refusal to hear an age bias case against its $140 million annual grossing subsidiary Mic Inc., reported to authorities that he found Scalia’s body in a guest room. News accounts have stated that 36 guests went to the ranch, which is about 30 miles from the Texas-Mexico border. Only a few of their identities are public.

John Poindexter Statuette at ranchThis editor has followed news reports closely since the death although this is our first commentary aside from excerpting others' reports. Investigative reporter Wayne Madsen traveled to the ranch and the El Paso funeral home promptly after the death, phoned us with accounts of his findings, and reported them in exclusive scoops on his daily Wayne Madsen Report, as well as on radio broadcasts for the Alex Jones Infowars radio broadcasts and with commentary elsewhere.

Madsen, an author and former Navy intelligence officer, stayed in one of the $700-a-night rooms at the five-star resort and a took photos of the ghoulish decorations, such as the one at left (used with permission) of a devil-like statuette positioned just a few feet from Scalia's room. This was one of a number of what Madsen reported as satanic-themed art pieces at the resort, with many of them decorating the dining room where Scalia, a devout Catholic, last dined.
 
Madsen's concerns, like ours at this site and those of the Post reporters, have primarily centered on procedural irregularities in the death investigation and potential ethical concerns when a powerful justice enjoys free and secretive junkets in the company of the elite. The Supreme Court requires only a minimum of disclosure under its opaque and largely self-enforcing ethics rules.

We explored them in depth in a series of columns showing how Associate Justice Clarence Thomas falsified his annual sworn disclosure forms for years to hide, among other things, his wife's money from lobbying, as we reported in Common Cause Files Against Justice Thomas's Wife's Group.

Ethics Issues

Yet Thomas suffered no sanction for what might have been regarded as perjury if committed by someone without the protection of deference accorded jurists, especially those on the nation's highest court and thereby empowered to use their discretion to help other powerful entities.

John RobertsChief Justice John Roberts (shown at right), who heads also the administrative system of the federal courts, has stated that no significant problem exists with the court system of judicial financial disclosure and recusal by judges from cases whenever an independent observer might suspect a conflict or appearance of a conflict.

Those rules are largely self-enforcing at the Supreme Court level because it is the nation's highest court and each justice is responsible for his or her own behavior. News reports have indicated that Scalia has taken the most trips during his nearly three decades on the bench. These include one of the most controversial, when Scalia refused to recuse from a major suit against then-Vice President Dick Cheney even though he had gone duck hunting with Cheney in 2004.

Nonetheless, Scalia's sudden death at a remote ranch near the Mexican border provided a clear window into his otherwise secret relationships and the Supreme Court's ongoing lack of transparency for junkets and other conflicts of interest. A company controlled by Poindexter, for example, benefited from the Supreme Court’s refusal last year to hear an age bias suit against it. Searching for clues, some media have found significance in Poindexter's history of political donations to Democrats as a potential motive for irregularities, at the minimum. But no real evidence has emerged to justify such a theory or motivation, despite claims by radio host Michael Savage, among others.

Scalia's death created such a dramatic and mysterious situation that the Washington Post headlined a Feb. 17 article by reporters Mark Berman and Jerry Markon, Why Justice Scalia was staying for free at a Texas resort.

Two days later, Madsen, an author and former Navy intelligence officer, amplified the theme based on his on-the-scene reporting, beginning with Forget the eulogies of Scalia; Why was he on a free trip to a swanky resort?  The Daily Mail re-reported Ritchie's comments from the Washington Post under the sensationalist headline: 'My gut tells me there is something fishy going on': Former D.C. homicide commander weighs in as conspiracy theories swirl around the death of Scalia.

 

John Poindexter ranch and devil mask Wayne Madsen photo

Art display at Cibolo Creek Ranch (Wayne Madsen photo)

Devil Masks

Madsen, a special correspondent on the story for the Alex Jones radio show, and four reporting colleagues working also for Jones stayed in rooms costing $700 a night. That charge does not include the "activity fees" the ranch reportedly usually assesses paid guests.

Madsen said their activities bypassed the normal guest routines for a resort. He and his colleagues focused instead on exploring the grounds (including a private graveyard of unmarked or simply marked sites), attempting (with scant success) to interview ranch staff, and photographing the scene, including the satanic artwork arising from regional culture, and the nearby private airport. As an experienced investigator, he noted that guest rooms doors could not be locked from the outside, aside from a few exceptions such as Scalia's presidential suite.

The 30,000 acre ranch has hosted celebrities that include Mick Jagger and Charlie Sheen. Madsen says that he and his colleagues were the only guests during their stay at the ranch, whose owner John Poindexter has said he provided a cost-free stay for Scalia and his companions.

Madsen wrote:

Scalia's dinner, his last meal, was served under a phalanx of devil masks hanging from the ranch's dining room. A painting reproduction outside the dining room evoked memories of the pre-St. Valentine's Day Roman pagan holiday of Lupercalia, celebrated around February 14th and known for drinking and orgies.

Madsen also wrote that all guests of the ranch -- presumably including the aged Scalia -- are required to sign a medical waiver because no medical help is available in the rural location. The reporter continued:

Scalia's body was viewed by Poindexter, Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez, and U.S. Marshal Ken Roberts. A U.S. Border Patrol car also arrived at the scene.

Dominguez is a 20-year incumbent whose Democratic primary challenger in the upcoming primary election, former deputy sheriff Caesar Melendez, says is incompetent and owned and operated by special interests in the county. Melendez said Dominguez violated all standard Presidio County procedures in the death of Scalia.

Scalia's body was inexplicably transported to El Paso in an Alpine Funeral Home hearse. El Paso is a three-and-a-half hour drive from the Cibolo Creek resort. Scalia was embalmed at El Paso's Sunset Funeral Home and flown out of El Paso International Airport on a private plane to Washington, DC.

The funeral director who embalmed Scalia said it is standard procedure to flush bodily fluids, including blood and urine, into the municipal sewage system.

Sheriff candidate Melendez said that is not the normal procedure in Presidio County where Scalia died because with a high water table there is always the potential for contamination from sewage system leeching potentially dangerous fluids into the fresh water supply....Someone obviously wanted Scalia moved out of Presidio County to El Paso where there would be no trace of blood or other bodily fluids that could have later yielded clues as to what drugs were in his system when he died.

Elsewhere, other outlets were floating extreme, tabloid-style theories. Last week's National Enquirer, for example, featured a front-page cover story dated Marcy 7 under the headline "Scalia was murdered." It claimed based on an unidentified source that Mexican prostitutes were involved in the gathering at the remote ranch. But the most serious allegations were based on simply one unidentified source. The Enquirer used some of Madsen's photos and quoted him but only on the embalming issue and not on the claims of murder or prostitutes.

Whatever their credibility on assertions of murder, such reports as the Enquirer's (and their ripple-effects on radio and social media) reach millions of Americans.

So, it behooves authorities and all sectors of the media to hear from independent experts.    

A Secret Society

John Poindexter and St. Hubertus Society The International Order of St. Hubertus is an exclusive, all-male group dating back to the 1600s in Bohemia in what is now the Czech Republic. Leaders are shown in a 2013 file photo, above. In a scoop of national importance, Horwitz and Brittain reported that leaders of the order include Poindexter and Foster. The latter traveled to the ranch with Scalia by private airplane. Foster, who holds degrees from Princeton, Oxford and Harvard Law School, is a litigator in federal courts, including the Supreme Court, where Scalia presided for nearly 30 years.

Poindexter has so far withheld from the public the identities of most guests (aside from Foster) and many other details. Poindexter raised and then undercut suspicions of foul play by his initial statement that he found a “pillow” on the justice’s head in a guest bedroom.

Later and less suspiciously, an official report said a pillowcase was found covering the late justice at eye level. Speculation on the pillow/pillowcase detail has included the obvious observation that pillows and their cases are normally found near a sleeper's head.

Others, however, have used that point to speculate (with little or no evidence) that Scalia may have been murdered to create a Supreme Court vacancy or else that he died during circumstances somehow embarrassing.   

Experts

The former deputy MPD chief Ritchie (shown below in a photo taken at a formal event) and the two reporters provided rare, independent expertise regarding the circumstances of a death that quickly prompted widespread veneration for the William Ritchielate justice’s legacy as well as speculation in tabloid outlets reaching millions about whether authorities were withholding important facts, in part to accommodate Scalia family desires.

As background, the justice was reported to have had extensive health issues but nonetheless undertook the trip, and did so without the security personnel who normally guard him.

Used to tough challenges, Ritchie is a former high school and college track star who became Howard University’s first known NCAA College Division All-American in Track and Field for three consecutive years. Also, he was the 1969 National Champion in the 220 yard dash.

During Ritchie's MPD career, his command-level assignments included the Organized Crime, Public Integrity and Homicide Branches along with the Medical Services Division. In 1981, he authored one of the main on-site incident reports chronicling the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley. Also, he helped lead the 1982 probe of the fatal Air Florida crash.

Following his retirement from the MPD, the Washington Hospital Center’s Medlantic Research Institute hired him as its first director for an Office of Decedent Affairs. His staff included numerous retired homicide detectives and assisted families of deceased patients. The highly innovative program fostered such sensitive and important projects as organ donation. Also, he held during his later years high-level consulting posts to provide security for the District of Columbia Public School System and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts.

Ritchie has wide interests that include helping lead regional Urban League formal events, participating in celebrity cooking contests (including one March 5 at Howard University), and using his forensic skills for ancestry research, exemplified on a recent YouTube video last year, Pekitta's Journey: Culmination of 35 year journey to find Pekitta's birth mother

In his comments at the press club, Ritchie noted that he has a rare combination of experience regarding death, in part because his police homicide command followed his rearing as son of a mortician and his own mid-career degree in the field.

"When I read what Sari wrote," Ritchie said of an early Horwitz report on the lack of an autopsy and a judge's ruling from afar that the associate justice died of natural causes, "I went 'What?!'"

"I'm wondering what kind of mystical powers thsi person had to determine a cause of death without seeing the body," Ritchie continued, noting some of the many tests that medical and police personnel use to evaluate the circumstances of death.

Sari Horwitz new portraitHorwitz began the press club discussion by describing from a reporter's perspective the strange and otherwise mysterious circumstances of Scalia's death, which reportedly occurred between a Friday night and Saturday morning, Feb. 13, after the justice retired to his room after dining.

"We [Post colleagues] found many more questions than answers," she said, recalling that neither reporters nor the U.S. marshal's service headquarters in Washington appeared to know much about the death until late afternoon on Saturday.

She said also that a hearse leaving the resort was a decoy, and Scalia's body was transported via a van to fool reporters.

"Why?" she said, "is the question."

Presidio County judge Cinderela Guevara declared Scalia dead of "natural causes" on the basis of a telephone call with a sheriff February 13.

Horwitz was assigned the story because she covers the Justice Department for the Washington Post, where she has been a reporter for 30 years.

Shown above left, she has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize three times, as well as many other prestigious prizes. Among them, she shared the Pulitzer in 2002 for investigative reporting for a series exposing the District of Columbia's role in the neglect and deaths of 229 children placed in protective care. The series prompted an overhaul of the child welfare system and a new wing of D.C. Superior Court for children and families.

Co-author of two books, she holds a master’s degree from Oxford University. She has reported on crime, police, legal issues, education and social services for the local and national staffs and the Post's Investigative unit.

Amy Brittain Washington PostAmy Brittain, shown at right, described to the McClendon Group audience at the club how she was assigned to help learn who was present at the resort during Scalia's death. Poindexter and authorities were providing little comment, she said. 

My editors said there's still a lot of things we don't know," she recalled. "We don't know any of the names."

"The main thing is," she stressed, "was there any conflict of interest?" 

She joined the investigative team of the Washington Post in 2013. Previously, she was an investigative reporter for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., and winner of the George Polk Award for the series “Strong At Any Cost,” which detailed the use of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone by hundreds of New Jersey law enforcement officers and firefighters.

Last year, she was part of a team of Post reporters who chronicled fatal shootings by police officers across the country. She graduated from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., and earned her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

"When I talk with a justice of the peace," she recalled, "he said, 'Another body? We get a call five or six times a year.'"

She described how the Post used both freelancers and staff reporters to sort through mysteries (presumably including illegal migrants crossing from Mexico) and secrecy. (Although to be fair, one person's "secrecy" is also "privacy" from another perspective, albeit a perspective that arguably diminishes in importance when the event is a free junket undertaken by a powerful public official who dies suddenly for unknown reasons.)

One breakthrough for the Post team was obtaining an official report of the death under the Texas Public Information Act, the state's version of freedom of information law.

Then the newspaper laboriously traced clues showing that Texas businessmen Wallace "Happy" Rogers III and A. J. Lewis had private planes that flew to the resort's private airport and then flew out Feb. 14 after Scalia's death, with some details available by tracing the airplane tail numbers and official bios and other biographical information. Curiously, they found evidence that some airplanes using the resort's private airfield had tail numbers blocked out or flight plans lower than 18,000-feet-high, with the latter circumstance eliminating the need to file flight plans with aviation regulators.

Ultimately, Brittain said, clues revealed the existence of the secretive St. Hubertus Order and its gathering at the ranch. But she said only a few of the attendees are known -- and most of them and their representatives have refused comment. "One hung up when I asked if Scalia was on the flight," she said. 

She and Horwitz said they remain interested in seeking answers to remaining mysteries about the death. But they see few possibilities without new leads since, for example, they cannot force anyone to disclose the names of guests at the ranch. They reported most avenues as blocked. Death certificates are secret under Texas law for 25 years. The St. Hubertus Order's American address, listed as a "Suite" at 2100 M St., NW in Washington, DC, turned out to be, upon inspection by Post reporters, merely a rental post office box.

During this week's discussion at the press club, the speakers were peppered with questions about whether foul play or sex scandal may have occurred (as suggested by a National Enquirer cover story, among other places). Ritchie said he is inclined to believe, based on the fragmentary evidence available, that the Scalia died of normal age-related causes -- but that the point undertaking rigorous routine procedures is to install public confidence and quell speculation.

Back in Texas, meanwhile, the former Presidio County deputy sheriff Caesar Melendez lost his primary challenge March 3 by a 934 – 613 vote to Sheriff Danny Dominguez, whom Melendez had accused of corruption and bungling the Scalia investigation.

More generally, most journalists and authorities are ignoring those questions, and focusing largely on political maneuvering over when -- and how -- Scalia will be replaced on the Supreme Court.  

Looking Ahead

Such a death is an important story that should be followed closely. We have extended requests for comment to the ranch owner Poindexter and Scalia's friend and traveling companion Foster, and several other relevant individuals whose comments will be appended if forthcoming.

In the meantime, the Justice Integrity Project will be pursuing the story like others, with special gratitude for independent experts willing to share their views.

 

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Washington Post Coverage

Antonin Scalia National Press Club Noel St. John April 17, 2014Photo of Justice Antonin Scalia during a panel discussion at the National Press Club by Noel St. John, used with permission

Washington Post, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dies at 79, Robert Barnes, Feb. 13, 2016. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the intellectual cornerstone of the court’s modern conservative wing, whose elegant and acidic opinions inspired a movement of legal thinkers and ignited liberal critics, died Feb. 13 on a ranch near Marfa, Tex. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Washington Post, Scalia’s death plunges court, national politics into turmoil, Robert Barnes, Feb. 13, 2016. Justice Antonin Scalia, the longest-serving member of the current Supreme Court and an intellectual leader of the conservative legal movement, died Saturday, and his death set off an immediate political battle about the future of the court and its national role. President Obama, who disagreed with Scalia’s jurisprudence, nevertheless praised him as “a larger-than-life presence on the bench” and a “brilliant legal mind [who] influenced a generation of judges, lawyers and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape.”

Washington Post, The death of Antonin Scalia: Chaos, confusion and,  Eva Ruth Moravec, Sari Horwitz and Jerry Markon, Feb. 14, 2016. In the cloistered chambers of the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia’s days were highly regulated and predictable. He met with clerks, wrote opinions and appeared for arguments in the august courtroom on a schedule set months in advance.

Yet as details of Scalia’s sudden death trickled in Sunday, it appeared that the hours afterward were anything but orderly. The man known for his elegant legal opinions and profound intellect was found dead in his room at a hunting resort by the resort’s owner, who grew worried when Scalia didn’t appear at breakfast Saturday morning. It then took hours for authorities in remote West Texas to find a justice of the peace, officials said Sunday.

Cinderela GuevaraWhen they did, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara (shown at right in a file photo) pronounced Scalia dead of natural causes without seeing the body — which is permissible under Texas law — and without ordering an autopsy.

Washington Post, Conspiracy theories swirl around the death of Antonin Scalia, Lena H. Sun and Sari Horwitz (shown at right), Feb. 15, 2016. Two days after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in remote West Texas, a former D.C. homicide commander is raising questions about how the death was handled by local and federal authorities. “As a former homicide commander, I am stunned that no autopsy was ordered for Justice Scalia,” William O. Ritchie, former head of criminal investigations for D.C. police, wrote in a post on Facebook on Sunday.

Washington Post, Why Justice Scalia was staying for free at a Texas resort, Mark Berman and Jerry Markon, Feb. 17, 2016. Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death over the weekend at a West Texas ranch raised questions about the nature of his travel, who paid for the trip and whether justices are subject to the same disclosure guidelines as other judges or federal officials.

Washington Post, Scalia’s son: Conspiracy theories about father’s death are a ‘hurtful distraction,’ Lindsey Bever, Feb. 18, 2016. The conspiracy theories began to swirl almost as soon as the news broke that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had been found dead in his room at a remote West Texas hunting resort. After joining a group that was hunting quail Friday and laughing with other resort guests at a private party that night, Scalia retired to his room. There, authorities said, he died in his sleep.

Washington Post, Scalia died at a secluded Texas ranch. Here’s where else the Supreme Court justices go when they leave town, Christopher Ingraham, Feb. 19, 2016. Everything you need to know about who pays when Supreme Court justices travel. Judges cannot accept anything of value from someone with a case in their court, and they are required to report travel-related reimbursements that total at least $375, an increase over previous years, according to the filing instructions sent out last year. But these instructions include an exemption covering “food, lodging or entertainment received as a personal hospitality,” which is described as a person letting a justice stay at their home or property owned by them or their family.

Washington Post, Everything you need to know about who pays when Supreme Court justices travel, Mark Berman and Christopher Ingraham, Feb. 19, 2016. A guide to the things Supreme Court justices do and don't disclose -- and who foots the bill when they take trips. Judges cannot accept anything of value from someone with a case in their court, and they are required to report travel-related reimbursements that total at least $375, an increase over previous years, according to the filing instructions sent out last year.

But these instructions include an exemption covering “food, lodging or entertainment received as a personal hospitality,” which is described as a person letting a justice stay at their home or property owned by them or their family. This is a sizable loophole, one that may have extended to Scalia’s trip to west Texas last weekend, according to Stephen Gillers, who teaches legal and judicial ethics at the New York University School of Law.

Washington Post, The psychology behind why people believe conspiracy theories about Scalia’s death, Joseph E. Uscinski, Feb. 19, 2016. Joseph E. Uscinski is an associate professor of political science at the University of Miami. He is a co-author, along with Joseph M. Parent, of American Conspiracy Theories. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died just days ago, but already conspiracy theories about his death abound. Radio talk-show host Alex Jones suggested that a pillow found near Scalia’s head might indicate that he’d been suffocated. Some retired detectives said the lack of an autopsy was evidence of a cover-up. One website (the aptly named Trunews) wondered whether the CIA used heart-attack-inducing drugs to kill the justice. Even Donald Trump joined the fray, calling the death “pretty unusual.”

Sari HorwitzWashington Post, Justice Scalia spent his last hours with members of this secretive society of elite hunters, Amy Brittain and Sari Horwitz (shown at right), Feb. 24, 2016. High-ranking members of the elite hunting society, St. Hubertus, were staying at Cibolo Creek Ranch at the same time as Justice Scalia in the days leading up to his death.

Allen FosterHere's what you need to know about the group. When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died 11 days ago at a West Texas ranch, he was among high-ranking members of an exclusive fraternity for hunters called the International Order of St. Hubertus, an Austrian society that dates back to the 1600s.

After Scalia’s death Feb. 13, the names of the 35 other guests at the remote resort, along with details about Scalia’s connection to the hunters, have remained largely unknown. A review of public records shows that some of the men who were with Scalia at the ranch are connected through the International Order of St. Hubertus, whose members gathered at least once before at the same ranch for a celebratory weekend.

Cibolo Creek Ranch owner John Poindexter and C. Allen Foster (shown in a file photo), a prominent Washington lawyer who traveled to the ranch with Scalia by private plane, hold leadership positions within the Order. It is unclear what, if any, official association Scalia had with the group.

Washington Post, Obama picks Garland for Supreme Court, Juliet Eilperin, Mike DeBonis and Jerry Markon, March 16, 2016. While introducing the federal judge during a speech in the Rose Garden, Obama urged the Senate to take up the nomination, saying that lawmakers should treat the process “with the seriousness and care it deserves.” President Obama on Wednesday nominated Merrick Garland to serve on the Merrick GarlandSupreme Court, setting up a protracted political fight with Republicans who have vowed to block any candidate picked by Obama in his final year in office. Garland, 63, is a longtime Washington lawyer and jurist who is chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Considered a moderate, Garland (shown in an official photo) is widely respected in the D.C. legal community and was also a finalist for the first two Supreme Court vacancies Obama filled. In announcing his choice in the White House Rose Garden, Obama said he followed “a rigorous and comprehensive process” and that he reached out to members of both parties, legal associations and advocacy groups to gauge opinions from “across the spectrum.”

He said Garland “is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence.” contests,” he said.

Garland is a Chicago native who graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. After becoming a partner at the law firm Arnold & Porter, he joined the Justice Department, where he handled the drug investigation of then-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry as an assistant U.S. attorney in the District.

Wikipedia: Merrick Garland. Merrick Brian Garland (born November 13, 1952) is an American federal judge who is the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He has served on that court since 1997.

A native of the Chicago area, Garland graduated summa cum laude as valedictorian from Harvard College and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. After serving as a law clerk to Judge Henry J. Friendly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. of the Supreme Court of the United States, he practiced corporate litigation at Arnold & Porter and worked as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice, where he played a leading role in the investigation and prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombers.

In 1995, Garland was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and (following a delay in Senate confirmation) took the bench in 1997. While serving on the D.C. Circuit, Garland has developed a reputation for brilliance as well as a centrist judicial philosophy. In 2009 and 2010, Garland was considered by President Barack Obama for two openings on the Supreme Court. On March 16, 2016, Obama nominated Garland to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, to fill the vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia.

President Obama with Senate leaders March 1, 2016

President Barack Obama talks with, from left, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at the conclusion of a meeting with the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Oval Office, March 1, 2016. The President, with Vice President Joe Biden, met with the committee members, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to discuss topics including the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, opioid legislation and criminal justice reform. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)

 

Reports On Court Ethics

Antonin Scalia and Congressman Jeff FortenberryNebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R), left, posted a photo on Facebook showing him hunting with the late Justice Scalia.

Los Angeles Times, Trip With Cheney Puts Ethics Spotlight on Scalia, David G. Savage, Jan. 17, 2004. Friends hunt ducks together, even as the justice is set to hear the vice president's case. Vice President Dick Cheney and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spent part of last week duck hunting together at a private camp in southern Louisiana just three weeks after the court agreed to take up the vice president's appeal in lawsuits over his handling of the administration's energy task force.

While Scalia and Cheney are avid hunters and longtime friends, several experts in legal ethics questioned the timing of their trip and said it raised doubts about Scalia's ability to judge the case impartially. But Scalia rejected that concern Friday, saying, "I do not think my impartiality could reasonably be questioned."

Federal law says "any justice or judge shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might be questioned." For nearly three years, Cheney has been fighting demands that he reveal whether he met with energy industry officials, including Kenneth L. Lay when he was chairman of Enron, while he was formulating the president's energy policy.

Justice Integrity Project, Common Cause Files Against Justice Thomas's Wife's Group, Andrew Kreig, March 24, 2012. Common Cause reminds the nation that the 2011 Clarence Thomas scandals remain unresolved despite the renewed focus this week on the court during its three-day special hearing on the health insurance mandate. Common Cause filed a complaint with the IRS against Liberty Central, a group founded by Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, wife of the associate justice and a tea party activist. Clarence Thomas

The reform group alleges that Liberty Central appears to have violated federal tax laws by advocating for the defeat of political candidates, including those supporting the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama. Its legality is now pending before the Supreme Court and widely regarded as in jeopardy from Thomas, shown at right, as part of an all-Republican court majority.

Intercept, Antonin Scalia: The Billion-Dollar Supreme Court Justice, David Dayen, Feb. 27, 2016. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was worth billions of dollars to corporate America, if a Dow Chemical settlement made public Friday is any indication. Dow was in the midst of appealing a $1.06 billion class-action antitrust ruling after a jury found that it had conspired with other chemical companies to fix prices for urethane, a material used in furniture and appliances. But because of Scalia’s death and the sudden unlikelihood of finding five votes on the Supreme Court to overturn the case, Dow decided to settle for $835 million, the bulk of the original award.

Corporations have used the conservative majority on the court as a safety valve to nullify unfavorable rulings. As the Alliance for Justice has documented, time and again, the Roberts Court has issued 5-4 rulings that protect big corporations from liability, limit access to justice for workers and consumers, and allow companies to evade regulations on the environment, racial and gender discrimination, and monopolistic practices.

“Growing political uncertainties due to recent events with the Supreme Court and increased likelihood for unfavorable outcomes for business involved in class-action suits have changed Dow’s risk assessment of the situation,” the company told Bloomberg News.

 

Wayne Madsen Report Coverage (Subscription-only, excerpted with permission)

Wayne Madsen, shown in a file photo, traveled to El Paso and the Cibola Creek Ranch from Feb. 16 to 18 to report on the Scalia death as a special correspondent with the Alex Jones Infowars radio show.

A former Navy intelligence officer, National Security Agency (NSA) analyst and defense contracting executive, Madsen has authored more than a dozen books and has appeared as an expert commentator on nearly all national TV broadcast and cable news networks. His opeds have appeared hundreds of times in U.S. newspapers during recent years.

Prolific also with alternative outlets, he presented his major findings about the Scalia death on the Alex Jones radio show in several reports last month. On Feb. 18, for example, Jones introduced Madsen following interview segments of best-selling author and veteran GOP political consultant Roger Stone and Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schaffly, a longtime conservative.

Madsen reported that the devil-themed mask shown in his photo below was one of a number of such masks decorating the ranch's dining room where Scalia took his last meal, according to Poindexter's statement to police.

Madsen also publishes the subscription web column "The Wayne Madsen Report" (WMR). The reports below about Scalia's death are excerpted from those columns:  John Poindexter ranch and devil mask Wayne Madsen photo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Forget the eulogies of Scalia; Why was he on a free trip to a swanky resort? Wayne Madsen, Feb. 19, 2016. Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia died from as yet unknown reasons while on an all-expenses paid boondoggle to a five-star resort ranch in the middle of nowhere in extreme west Texas. Scalia's host, John B. Poindexter, the billionaire owner of J. B. Poindexter & Co. Inc. of Houston, had an age discrimination case before the Supreme Court last year. Scalia was one of the judges who found in favor of Poindexter by refusing to hear the age discrimination case (Hinga, James V. Mic Group) and it appears that Scalia's "quail hunting" trip to Poindexter's Cibolo Creek Ranch was a payback for the Supreme Court's legal largesse. Poindexter admitted the free trip was a "gift" to Scalia.

WMR, No Country for Old Supreme Court Justices, Feb. 22, 2016. Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia could not have died in a more corrupt county than Presidio County, Texas. In fact, the Hollywood violent thriller "No Country for Old Men" was partially filmed at the Cibolo Creek Ranch where Scalia is said to have died in his sleep from "natural causes," reportedly a heart attack, sometime during the evening of Friday, February 12.

WMR, Poindexter's area of Texas rife with intelligence ties, Feb. 23, 2016. When it came to sweeping away any dangling questions remaining over the sudden death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia at his Cibolo Creek Ranch resort in west Texas, Houston billionaire businessman John B. Poindexter could rely on more than just a Presidio County judge, the county sheriff, and two justices of the peace to sign off on a quick resolution of the cause of Scalia's death.

WMR, Discrepancy in Presidio Sheriff's report on Scalia, Feb. 24, 2016. On February 23, Presidio County, Texas Sheriff Danny Dominguez released his sheriff's report on the unattended death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. The report contains a major discrepancy on how Scalia's body was transported from the Cibolo Creek Ranch to the Sunset Funeral Home in El Paso, where it was embalmed.

WMR, Scalia's hunting ranch was meeting place for secret society, Feb. 25, 2016. The story of the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia's last hours spent at the exclusive Cibolo Creek Ranch nestled in the Chinati Mountains, near Marfa, Texas, is as strange as the peculiar treatment his body received after his sudden death during his first night at the 30,000 acre compound. WMR's editor first speculated that there was more going on at ranch with Scalia and 35 other men during the Valentine's Day/President's Day weekend. First, it was a male-only "hunting" Valentine's Day weekend event for some influential married and family-oriented figures, including Scalia.

Outside of Scalia's room, the "El Presidente" suite, is a wood-burning pit. There was evidence that on the evening that Scalia died, there was a party outside his suite. There was ash still in the pit, some broken glass, and cigar ashes in the ashtray. Scalia was an avid cigar aficionado. Also found was a box of self-striking matches next to the ashtray, which was alleviated by the WMR editor as a "souvenir." Inside the corridor leading to Scalia's room was a statuette that can only be described as satanic in nature.

WMR, Two suspicious deaths become cold cases: Leslin, Scalia, March 11, 2016. Two high-profile deaths in the United States have become "cold cases" as a result of further investigations. 

 

Related News Coverage (In chronological order)

Washington Update Radio/Justice Integrity Project, Interview of "American Original" Joan Biskupic, Andrew Kreig and Scott Draughon, Dec. 17, 2010. Washington Update radio co-hosts interviewed American Original Cover in biography of Antonin ScaliaJoan Biskupic, USA Today Supreme Court reporter on her pioneering full-scale biography American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The book is the first to combine the life-story and public impact of the court’s most provocative justice. Her biography is augmented by exclusive interviews. The author has covered the Supreme Court since 1989, and wrote the 2005 biography Sandra Day O’Connor.

New York Times, What Would Scalia Want in His Successor? A Dissent Offers Clues, Adam Liptak, Feb. 15, 2016. Members of the Supreme Court in 2010. As Justice Antonin Scalia noted, its members are by many measures remarkably similar, giving the court the quality of a private club. What sort of person would Justice Antonin Scalia have wanted President Obama to name as his successor? We know more than you might think. In a largely overlooked passage in his dissent from the court’s decision in June establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, he left detailed suggestions.

U.S. SurempremeAvoid “tall-building lawyers,” especially ones who work in skyscrapers in New York. Find someone who did not go to law school at Harvard or Yale. Look for a candidate from the Southwest. Consider an evangelical Christian. Justice Scalia was criticizing the lack of diversity of the court he sat on, and he did not exclude himself. He was right as a factual matter: Supreme Court justices these days are by many measures remarkably similar, giving the court the insular quality of a private club or a faculty lounge.

Since Justice John Paul Stevens retired in 2010, the court, for the first time, has no Protestant member. Justice Scalia was Catholic, as are five other justices. The other three are Jewish. In his dissent from June, Justice Scalia lamented this state of affairs, writing, “Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination.” Justice Scalia also surveyed the lack of geographical diversity on his court. “Four of the nine are natives of New York City,” he wrote.

Daily Mail, 'My gut tells me there is something fishy going on': Former D.C. homicide commander weighs in as conspiracy theories swirl around the death of Scalia, Wills Robinson, Feb. 15, 2016. According to the Washington Post, [Ritchie] wrote:

'You have a Supreme Court Justice who died, not in attendance of a physician,

'You have a non-homicide trained US Marshal tell the justice of peace that no foul play was observed.
 Did the US Marshal smell his breath for any unusual odor that might suggest poisoning? My gut tells me there is something fishy going on in Texas

'You have a justice of the peace pronounce death while not being on the scene and without any medical training opining that the justice died of a heart attack. 'What medical proof exists of a myocardial Infarction? Why not a cerebral hemorrhage. He also raised concerns about the actions of the U.S. Marshal who called Guevara to report the judge's death.

'How can the Marshal say, without a thorough post mortem, that he was not injected with an illegal substance that would simulate a heart attack,' he added. 'Did the US Marshal check for petechial hemorrhage in his eyes or under his lips that would have suggested suffocation? 'Did the US Marshal smell his breath for any unusual odor that might suggest poisoning? My gut tells me there is something fishy going on in Texas.'

A spokesman for the Marshal service told the Washington Post the officer did not give a determination of death. Monahan would not comment on the circumstances surrounding his patient's death because of confidentiality. The 79-year-old, who sat on the Supreme Court bench for 20 years, was found dead at a ranch in Texas during a retreat with friends and admirers.

San Antonio Express-News, Who is John Poindexter? John Gonzalez, Feb. 17, 2016. Editors note: This story, about the man who owns the ranch where Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13, was John Poindexterwritten by staff writer John Gonzalez on Oct. 30, 2005. It is republished here without changes.

Still single at age 61, Houston businessman John Poindexter is concerned about his legacy. Will he be remembered as a combat-tested Vietnam veteran who became a wealthy industrialist and rancher with a passion for preserving some of the most majestic lands in West Texas? Or will he go down in Texas folklore as the rich guy who wanted to buy a pristine part of Big Bend Ranch State Park?

Despite the controversy that erupted over his unsuccessful attempt in August to acquire 46,000 acres from the state park system, Poindexter said last week he may revive his purchase offer after next year’s GOP gubernatorial contest, which he claims had a role in dooming the initial deal. Poindexter drew fire from environmentalists and park conservation groups that said they were ambushed by the unpopular proposal. He argued then, and still contends, the sale would enable

CNN, Justice Scalia's unexamined death points to a problem, Judy Melinek, Feb. 18, 2016. Dr. Judy Melinek is a forensic pathologist who performs autopsies for the Alameda County Sheriff Coroner's Office in California and is the CEO of the medico-legal consultancy PathologyExpert Inc. When my husband called and told me the news that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had died, the first question that came out of my mouth was, "Where?" "Texas," he said. "Oh no." I have been called to testify as a forensic pathology expert in many legal cases in Texas. I know about the laws that govern death investigation in that state.

It came as no surprise to me that Justice Scalia, found cold and pulseless in bed with a pillow "over his head," was declared dead of natural causes without an autopsy being performed. I was not shocked to hear that a county justice of the peace agreed to issue the death certificate without visiting the death scene or seeing the body for herself.  Why is it that in a nation with the best medical technology in the world, we are still allowing a law enforcement official and a judge on the end of a telephone line to declare someone dead and pronounce the manner of death as natural without an autopsy?

InfoWars, Here's Why Scalia Didn't Get Autopsy, David Knight interviews Wayne Madsen for the Alex Jones Show, Feb. 18, 2016 (video 4:45 min). Infowars co-host David Knight interviews Wayne Madsen at the Cibolo Creek Ranch. Scalia's body could have been flown directly to Virginia - but wasn't.

 

OpEdNews, Scalia's Black Beemer, Greg Palast, Feb. 19, 2016. (Investigative reporter, best-selling author and former BBC commentator Greg Palast is shown below at right.)

Greg Palast file photoIt was one of our team's weirder investigative discoveries: The recently departed Justice Antonin Scalia -- aleha hashalom -- in 2011 was ticketed for recklessly driving his black BMW.

To his family, I offer condolences. To my readers, I offer the facts. A man's soul must be laid to rest, but history must not be buried as well, especially now that the Justice's passing has become grounds for stories that border on historical obscenity, cf. the New York Times, "Liberal Love for Antonin Scalia."

Love?? Well, if you want a Valentine, this ain't it. There's been a lot of gleeful chuckling, for example, about Scalia's courtroom bench "humor." But behind his jokey comments lay a cruelty aimed at the poor, the injured, the Beemer-less class that turns to the Court as the last hope for protection against corporate and state violence.

Politico, Scalia family largely absent during Obama visit, Josh Gerstein, Feb. 20, 2016. Most of late Justice Antonin Scalia's family was absent Friday afternoon when President Barack Obama visited with a handful of Scalia's kin at the Supreme Court. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met "briefly" with Scalia's son Matthew, his wife Michelle and their children, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said. Scalia's widow Maureen was not in attendance at the meeting, which took place in the Solicitor General's office at the high court. That office sits just off the court's Great Hall, where Justice Scalia laid in repose as mourners paid their respects throughout the day Friday.

New York Times, At Memorial, Scalia Remembered as Happy Combatant, Adam Liptak, March 1, 2016. Justice Clarence Thomas paid tribute on Tuesday to “Brother Nino” at a memorial service for Justice Antonin Scalia at the Mayflower Hotel attended by all eight remaining members of the Supreme Court. So did Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Scalia’s frequent judicial adversary and best friend on the court.

Justices, clerks and four of Justice Scalia’s nine children recalled a happy combatant, in love with law and the power of words, a man of deep Roman Catholic faith, a demanding but loving father and a driver best avoided. Justice Scalia, who died Feb. 13 at age 79, was awfully proud of some of the hundreds of opinions he wrote in his 30 years on the court, Justice Thomas said. “‘Clarence, you have got to hear this,’” Justice Thomas recalled him saying. “‘This is really good.’”

Texas Standard, Super Tuesday Results from the Big Bend Region, Staff report, March 3, 2016.  In the Democratic primary in Presidio County, Sheriff Danny Dominguez was elected to another term, defeating challenger Caesar Melendez in a 934 – 613 vote. There were no Republican candidates.

Huffington Post, Justice Scalia's Greatest Failure, Geoffrey R. Stone, March 4, 2016. Geoffrey Stone, a professor and former dean at the law school, is a constitutional scholar and co-author of widely used textbooks in the field. First popularized by Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia in the early 1980s, originalism posits that courts should exercise judicial restraint unless the "original meaning" of the text clearly mandates a less deferential analysis. 

Bloomberg‎, Obama and Republicans Trade Fire Over Nominee to Replace Scalia, Mike Dorning and Steven T. Dennis, March 10, 2016. President Barack Obama said Thursday that Senate Republicans threaten the credibility of the Supreme Court by obstructing his nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, and Senator Chuck Grassley charged that Democrats were playing politics with the vacancy.

Partisan warfare over the court seat is raging up and down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, with the backdrop of the presidential election only intensifying the stakes. Should Obama succeed in replacing Scalia, a conservative appointed by President Ronald Reagan, the court would undoubtedly tilt leftward. Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which would hold hearings on any nominee, vigorously defended his position that no Obama selection should be considered this year. He said he would not be swayed and that Democrats were playing politics by demanding a hearing and votes for a nominee Republicans would never confirm.

NBC News Channel 4 (Washington, DC), A Mystery Solved: Where is Scalia Buried? Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's funeral was attended by thousands and carried on live television, but when the hearse pulled away from the church and headed to his burial site, his family asked for privacy and Supreme Court officials declined to say where Scalia was being laid to rest.

Within months of his death in February, the location of Scalia's grave, at Fairfax Memorial Park in Virginia, was recorded on the cemetery website Findagrave.com with precision: Garden of the Crucifixion, Lot 870, Site A. A contributor to the site added photos, too. Recently Wikipedia added the location and a photo to Scalia's page.