The decline of SCOTUS

VIRTUAL REALITY - Tony Lopez - The Philippine Star

Former Chief Justice Art Panganiban has written how his awe and reverence for the nine-person Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) have turned to dismay and desolation largely because of “what I believe are unethical, if not illegal, practices of its incumbents, such as receipt of enormous sums as royalties, speaking fees, gifts from friends, paid vacations with private yachts and private planes in exclusive hotels, hobnobbing with the rich and famous in private clubs and, lately, partisan political bias.”

Specifically, CJ Art wrote in his Inquirer column, of the Gods of Judicial Olympus earning more from outside “fees” and “royalties” than from their regular compensation as justices, all of whom serve until they die or decide to retire just before they die.

The wives of at least two justices are manifestly partisan, in favor of loser Donald Trump. One wife joined the Jan. 6, 2021 riot that assaulted the US Capitol while it was counting the votes for president. Another wife displayed, for several days, pro-Trump flags in their residence and vacation house.

Art Panganiban is perhaps one of the most respected among the 27 chiefs of the Supreme Court (123 years old last June 11, 2024). He is the high court’s most prolific writer (14 books and over 1,200 full length, signed decisions during his 11 years at the SC).

Art is the SC justice who, on Jan. 20, 2001, goaded then the reluctant Chief Justice Hilario Davide to declare the Joseph Estrada presidency vacant (after only 30 months), and to swear in VP Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as “acting” president.

When Erap insisted he did not resign, the Supreme Court invented a new jurisprudence – constructive resignation. You thought of resigning, therefore, you are resigned, so the logic went. Since then, no president ever thought of resigning. In fact, nearly every president after Erap maneuvered, thankfully unsuccessfully, to remain in power past his/her six-year term. That is why you keep hearing terms like Cha-cha, people’s initiative and constitutional change midway into every presidency.

Back to SCOTUS. Chief Panganiban wrote: “The justices recently disclosed their ‘royalties’ for last year alone (aside from their 2023 salary of $285,400 for justices and $298,500 for the chief justice, per www.uscourts.gov): Brett Kavanaugh, $340,000; Neil Gorsuch, $250,000 and Sonia Sotomayor, $87,000. Even new Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson (assumed office on June 30, 2022) received $900,000 as a book advance, four tickets worth about $3,700 for a Beyoncé concert and $12,500, in total, for her artwork in her chambers.”

CJ Art wrote, “Senior Justice Clarence Thomas acknowledged that billionaire Harlan Crow, a mega-donor of the Republican Party, paid for his accommodations in Bali in 2019 and a few days later, for his stay at a private club in Monte Rio, California.” Thomas disclosed these 2019 freebies belatedly only in his 2023 disclosures because they were “inadvertently omitted at the time of filing.” Further, Thomas justified his delayed action because ethics officials advised that “personal hospitality” from friends need not be disclosed.

Alito did even worse. Art said: Alito “flew on a private jet and vacationed in Alaska with a hedge fund billionaire with interests before the court.” While reported by the media, this freebie was not in his 2023 disclosures because he asked for and was granted a filing extension of 90 days.

Moreover, The New York Times printed a picture of an upside-down US flag on a flagpole in Alito’s home. According to the US Code, the US flag is not to be flown upside down except as a “signal of dire distress or extreme danger” but in January 2021, when the flag was flown in the Alito home, it was largely seen in connection with a specific cause – that allegedly, Trump was robbed of victory in the 2020 presidential poll. It was used by his supporters in staging the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol. Alito dismissed the incident, saying the flag was hoisted by his wife, Martha Ann, without his consent, “after her altercation with a neighbor.”

Alito’s neighbor later told CNN Alito was “just lying” because the altercation happened in “mid-February” while the upside-down flag was published on Jan. 17, 2021.

Summed up a Vanity Fair article:

“Alito’s wife flew two flags synonymous with the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement outside the couple’s Virginia residence and New Jersey beach house in 2021 and 2023, respectively. Around the same time, The New York Times also reported that Mrs. Alito had allegedly spit at an anti-Trump neighbor’s car on Inauguration Day 2021.”

Fortunately, the shenanigans of certain US Supreme Court justices – and their wives – were made public, particularly by The New York Times, after the September 2023 Gallup poll showing the approval ratings of the SCOTUS at near record lows, at 41 percent, and disapproval at record high, 58 percent. I am sure those ratings have worsened.

Yet, the heavily conservative US Supreme Court is about to rule on whether Trump is immune from suit, for acts as president, including assassinating his rival/s.

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May I invite business leaders to the Manila Overseas Press Club “Investment Night” on Tuesday, June 25, 6 p.m. at Fairmont Hotel ballroom, with the Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs Frederick Go as the guest of honor and speaker. Call Dena, MOPC secretariat, 0920-204-9229 for reservations, for first-come, first-pay, first served basis.

MOPC has had a “Night” with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., then Senate President Migz Zubiri and House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, Defense Secretary Gibo Teodoro and Finance Secretary Ralph Recto.

Considering the state of investment today and economic challenges that threaten to worsen, the MOPC “Investment Night” with Deck Go could put things in perspective and clarify concerns about the economy.

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Email: [email protected]

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