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Who's Buying Justice Neil Gorsuch's Real Estate? Nobody He'd Care To Tell You About!
Fam, we are shook.
You guys. Maybe you should sit down.
You know how there's been all that stuff in the news lately about garbage Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his trash fire loon wife Ginny taking millions of dollars in "hospitality" from rightwing gazillionaire Harlan Crow? Turns out, he's not the only one who forgot to disclose one or two little things on his ethics disclosure. Politico went digging through Justice Neil Gorsuch's financial disclosures and, hey, wouldn't ya know , he managed to bury the lede on a land deal which came together approximately five minutes after he was confirmed to the nation's highest court.
See, Gorsuch was a partner in an LLC called The Walden Group which had been trying to sell a 3,000-square-foot vacation house on 40 acres in rural Colorado since 2015. And right after he got confirmed in 2017, a buyer appeared with a sack of cash to take the property off their hands.
And who was the buyer?
Oh, just Brian Duffy, the head of law firm Greenberg Traurig's 600-lawyer litigation division which argues cases at the Supreme Court on the regular. NBD.
Now, to be scrupulously fair, Duffy says he didn't know that Gorsuch was a minority owner in the property until after he made an offer, which was substantially below list price. And when Duffy found out, he ran it through Greenberg's ethics department, which cleared him to go through with it. Yes, Greenberg did represent North Dakota in a 2022 case in which Gorsuch joined the Court's conservatives to gut the EPA's ability to regulate carbon emissions. But, let's be honest, he was going to do that anyway.
There's no evidence that Gorsuch treated Greenberg's clients more favorably than anyone else arguing to gut the federal government's ability to solve problems for the American people. The problem, however, is that Gorsuch buried the deal in his disclosure form by reporting that he'd received between $250,001 and $500,000 from Walden Group, LLC, and nothing else. And while there's basically no debate that what Justice Thomas did was way over the line, Gorsuch's fudge may or may not violate the flimsy disclosure requirements for federal judges.
And that, along with the total lack of accountability, is the problem . We entrust the judiciary to police itself, and that is clearly not working.
Another case in the news this week involves Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, that ghoul in Texas who tried to rescind the FDA's authorization of mifepristone 23 years after the fact. CNN reports that most of Kacsmaryk's wealth consists of between $5 and $25 million of "common stock" in a company which he will not name.
“It is a private corporation headquartered and operated outside of Texas, outside the Fifth Circuit. It has never been a party in any case in the Northern District of Texas,” he wrote. “The Clerk’s Office has the name of the entity, actively screens incoming cases, and I would be automatically recused from any cases involving this entity.”
It's pretty clear from Kacsmaryk's prior disclosures that the company is the Publix supermarket chain. And while there are exceptions to disclosure requirements if the information would reveal personal information that might jeopardize the security of the judge or their family, it's hard to see how this would qualify. Nor is it clear how having the clerk screen for conflicts is an appropriate substitute for public disclosure requirements. The whole point of mandatory reporting is to allow litigants coming before the judge to decide for themselves if they should ask for a recusal. That's not a decision which can or should be be outsourced to a bureaucrat who works in the courthouse — i.e. for the judge — doing a key word search. And the fact that Kacsmaryk, Gorsuch, and Thomas are so blithe about it demonstrates exactly why we need to beef up the ethics regulations governing the federal judiciary.
Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin has rightly taken a lot of flak this week for refusing to demand that Justice Thomas come in and explain himself, telling NBC's Chuck Todd, “I think I know what would happen to that invitation. It would be ignored."
“Why this Supreme Court, these nine justices, believe they are exempt from the basic standards of disclosure, I cannot explain. And I think chief justice should appear before our committee and explain something or explain the changes that he’s going to make,” he said of his decision to invite Chief Justice John Roberts in to do an in-person rendition of the dog in the "This is Fine" meme.
Durbin seems to believe that shaming Roberts will do the trick: "This is John Roberts’s court. [...] History is going to judge the Roberts Court by his decision as to reform, and I think this is an invitation, on May 2, for him to present it to the American people.”
It won't. But shouting about it at least robs him and his brethren of their ability to pretend to be sacred monks in black robes, above petty partisan concerns and self-enrichment. Bang those pots!
Catch Liz Dye on Opening Arguments podcast.
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