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Tuesday, March 22, 2011
NewsBusters' Double Standard on Judicial Conflicts of Interest
Topic: NewsBusters

A March 22 NewsBusters post by Tom Blumer joins the right-wing attack on Maryann Sumi, the Wisconsin judge who has blocked implementation of a recently passed state law essentially banning collective bargaining for public employees, repeating complaints that the judge's son is a former union worker as "a pretty clear conflict of interest." Blumer added that if the son lives with his mother, that "would compound the level of conflicted interests."

By contrast, NewsBusters endeavored to excuse similar conflicts of interest regarding another judge -- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

After it was pointed out that Thomas' wife, Ginni, is a tea party activist whose activism should perhaps cause Thomas to recuse himself from some cases, Noel Sheppard scoffed at the idea in a Feb. 5 post: "So if a judge's wife writes an opinion on a controversial issue coming before his court, he should recuse himself? Doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?"

Referencing Ginni Thomas' previous affiliation with the tea party group Liberty Central in a July 2010 post, Sheppard wrote:

As such, despite Olbermann's blathering, the only potential conflict here would be if the Supreme Court heard a case involving a donor to Liberty Central. At that point, there are procedures in place to deal with it.

After all, in the many centuries we've had a Supreme Court, this isn't the first time a justice's spouse was involved in politics.

But as Sheppard also noted, Liberty Central has refused to make its donor list public, making it impossible to determine if a case Thomas decided involved a Liberty Central donor. Sheppard didn't comment on that contradiction.

In a March 2010 post, Matthew Balan touted legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin's claim that there's nothing illegal about Ginni Thomas' activism, as if that was the central issue.

It appears that the only judicial conflicts of interest that really matter to NewsBusters are those that can be used to attack a supposedly liberal judge.

Posted by Terry K. at 2:11 PM EDT

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