The Supreme Court fulfills its vital role in preserving democracy by earning public confidence, as Justice Stephen Breyer told a packed hall last week in Washington, DC. But his lecture and book, Making Our Democracy Work, glossed over current controversies, such as the "Virginia and Clarence ThoStephen Breyermas Bought By Billionaires" ad released this week.

My purpose here is to illustrate how one of the top ambassadors for the court responds to specific allegations of corruption that are seldom raised officially in Washington because the court has such power. So, this column focuses more on Breyer's Oct. 27 responses than on the evidence, which is best available via the links below.

Fresh from a National Press Club lecture the previous night where retired federal judge Lillian McEwen said Justice  Thomas should resign on grounds of corruption, I asked Breyer during Q&A how the court decides on its responses to inquiries. I identified myself as reporting on this year's allegations of bribery and false statement by Thomas, and said I've received no comment from Thomas. Breyer, at left, responded that he guides the court's spokeswoman when a matter pertains to himself, and has seven volumes of ethics books and also trusted ethics advisers that he consults on difficult issues. When a follow-up questioner asked Breyer about abortion, he ducked by joking, "We've already had a reporter gently try to bring up something," and smiling as he waved his hands at his side, as if to shoo away a beggar.

Breyer's inclination at the forum to gloss over current controversy is one way to preserve the court's stature. Another has been his 2010 book, a national best-seller that was strongly praised by the New York Times, Washington Post and other establishment opinion-leaders and information gatekeepers. But not everyone was bedazzled. McEwen, author of DC Unmasked and Undressed this year, a former law professor and my guest at this event, told me it seemed like a warmed-over speech for a civics class, not one for a sophisticated DC audience.

Clarence and Virginia Thomas...Bought by BillionairesThe lecture did not address the revelations by Common Cause and others this year of false statements by Thomas in his sworn annual disclosure statements to hide an estimated $1.6 million in reportable income and gifts for him and his wife, Virginia. Forty-six House Democrats  have called for a House impeachment probe.

Protect our Elections.org is a progressive group that says it has been working with the FBI since July on an investigation of Thomas and his wife. This week published the ad above, headlined, "Clarence and Virginia Thomas: Bought By Billionaires." The text is about David Koch, at far right, and Harlan Crow, shown between the Thomas couple. It says:

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David StewartDavid O. Stewart, a noted historian and legal scholar, joins the Oct. 27 edition of the MTL Washington Update radio series Oct. 27 to discuss his latest book, American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America, which was released this week. Join him, my co-host Scott Draughon and me with your questions on the live show, available worldwide on the My Technology Lawyer (MTL) network founded by Draughon. Click here to listen live or later by archive. For questions and comments, call (866) 685-7469 or email here. Mac users need “Parallels.”

Stewart, a prominent Washington-based litigator as well as author, has a rare gift of drawing timely lessons from his historical research in a popular manner, as he did last month in the Huffington Post in describing how Burr's "non-partianship" helped make him a target more than two centuries ago. This month Stewart explored how the charge of "treason" is affecting high-stakes U.S. politics these days, just as it did at the nation's founding. He debunks today's claims as having little in common with real-life fears when treason law developed. He began his Huffington Post column, Treason on the Cheap, thus:

It's called "the king of crimes." In political debate, it can serve as the ace of trumps, an incendiary accusation that appeals to emotion rather than reason. And, like much in our culture, it has been cheapened almost beyond recognition. Governor Rick Perry of Texas, a Republican presidential candidate, started the latest round of treason-slinging, denouncing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's anti-recession policies as "almost treasonous." Fellow Republican Jon Huntsman turned the tables, claiming that Perry's statement that U.S. borders probably cannot be secured is "pretty much a treasonous statement."

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Author and former Senate Judiciary Committee counsel Lillian McEwen, whose memoir this year describes a five-year romantic relationship in the 1980s with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, will deliver a lecture Oct. 26 calling for his resignation on grounds of corruption that is dangerous to the public.

“The mask he has worn for so long has slipped during the past 20 years to reveal dishonesty, greed, and abuse of the public trust,” she told me in an exclusive interview before her talk at the National Press Club at 7 p.m. (ET). “Fueled by self-hatred and resentment, Justice Thomas has allowed himself to be purchased.”

Update with my video interview: Clarence Thomas—perjurer, tax cheat, fanatic, party operative—has GOT TO GO, declares Judge Lillian McEwen (his former lover).

Her comments come during widespread concern among court scholars over its ethics, partisanship and the adverse impact on the public. "The Supreme Court," says the cover of the widely respected Closed Chambers analysis by former court clerk Edward Lazarus, "affects the life of every American every day." Part of the concern has been visible in many retrospectives this month on the 20th anniversary of the Thomas confirmation hearings before the Judiciary Committee, in which he denied sexually harassing his former staffer Anita Hill. But, as reflected below, the criticism recently has gone far beyond Thomas to reflect dismay about an unaccountable judiciary. Some on the bench accept money and gifts from those with interests before the courts and, recently in the case of Thomas, brag that they do not need to follow precedent if they want to change the law.

"This is going to be a big year for the Supreme Court," says Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron, whose group fought the Thomas nomination and, as described in a new column here, A Question of Integrity Hangs Over the U.S. Supreme Court, is launching a documentary next Tuesday portraying the court's failings. "This election cycle is going to remind everyone of the effects of its infamous Citizens United decision, as vast sums of corporate money flood the electoral system."

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Andrew KreigThe Washington Post's reluctance to cover many important stories involving legal reform is an important obstacle for those engaged in such work. So we excerpt below two revealing columns illustrating how the paper's leading revenue source -- profits from the education industry -- creates perverse financial incentives for what most readers assume is the paper's goal, selling newspapers. In fact, the paper is only partly engaged in what a Supreme Court justice once evocatively called "The marketplace of ideas." Instead the paper's quarterly reports indicate that it receives about 4 percent of its revenue from newspaper circulation. At least 60 percent of revenue typically comes to the Post from its Kaplan subsidiary, which provides a wide array of education services in K-12, college and post-college sectors. But a significant portion is funded by controversial government programs for which the Post (through its revenue-dominate affiliate) must lobby officials.

Excerpted below is a Salon column by Alex Pareene about the Post's involvement in the nation's looming student debt crisis: The $1 Trillion Student Loan Rip-Off: How an Entire Generation Was Tricked into Taking on Crushing Debt That Just Enriches Banks. This larger picture is illustrated also by a recent Huffington Post column by Chris Kirkham, With Goldman's Foray Into Higher Education, A Predatory Pursuit Of Students And Revenues. But other parts of our news round-up today include column excerpts show a happier tale: How the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey's largest newspaper, is finally grasping the dangers of political prosecutions that we've been reporting for more than two years.

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On Oct. 18 this week, the nation reached an important symbolic moment for the Clarence Thomas era on the Supreme Court. That Thomas Swearing Inwas the date 20 years ago for his swearing-in ceremony, portrayed at right in a White House photo showing the associate justice and his wife, Virginia, with Associate Justice Byron White administering the oath of office.

But the scene was pure hokum. The Bush White House designed it to quiet Thomas critics ASAP after the 52-48 Senate confirmation on Oct. 15 -- and to allow his backers to celebrate his lifetime appointment in grand style.

In sum, this was stage-craft to fool the public about our most respected branch of government at one of its most solemn transitional landmarks. The real ceremony was a tiny one in private on Oct. 23. Chief Justice William Rehnquist administered the oath after he pulled himself together following his wife's then-recent death. Thomas acknowledged this chronology in his 2007 autobiography, and other biographers confirm it.

Thus, the Thomas era on the court began with a fraud upon the public and has expanded into ongoing infamy.

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Louis ManzoA former New Jersey assemblyman defending himself on corruption charges filed on Oct. 18 a wide-ranging brief alleging selective prosecution in the 2009 case that helped propel Chris Christie to his state's governor's mansion. Louis Manzo, left, requested also that courts vacate his most recent charges as vindictive or help enable a special prosChris Christieecutor.

Manzo, who has emerged as one of the nation's most important critics of prosecutors among defendants, filed an unusually comprehensive set of filings, listed below, seeking the removal of Obama-appointed U.S. attorney Paul Fishman. Manzo, a Democrat, says Fishman has continued what Manzo calls called the corrupt law enforcement practices intitiated by Christie, right. Christie was the Bush-appointed U.S. attorney for New Jersey, resigning at the end of 2008 to begin his campaign for governor. Christie, Fishman and their teams have responded that they have acted appropriately.

Manzo's filing alleges that a Christie-initiated "sting" against 46 defendants in 2009 targeted only one Republican office-holder, and even that defendant was not running for re-election. Manzo said the sweep largely ignored evidence that Solomon Dwek, the federal government's chief witness in the sting, had been bribing Republican officials in Monmouth County. In a leniency deal initiated by Christie and continued by his successors, the government has arranged for Dwek to receive five-figure monthly living expenses from victims of his $50 million bank fraud if he would help prosecutors develop cases by using government funds to donate to local candidates in circumstances suggesting bribery. One was Manzo, who argues he didn't take a bribe, and that the entire process was unfair and an insult to taxpayers and voters.

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