Legal ethicists claim Roberts White House interview 'illegal'

[JURIST] In a Slate article [text] published Wednesday, legal ethicists Stephen Gillers, David Luban and Steven Lubet claim that the White House violated the law when it interviewed Judge John Roberts [JURIST news archive] this spring for the US Supreme Court while he was considering a challenge to US military tribunals in his capacity as a federal appeals court judge. Roberts, nominated to the highest court by President Bush last month, should not have taken part in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [PDF opinion] to avoid any "appearance of partiality," the three wrote. Citing US Supreme Court precedent in Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corp. [PDF opinion], the ethicists argue that the federal requirement that judges recuse themselves when their "impartiality might reasonably be questioned" is meant to "to promote confidence in the judiciary by avoiding even the appearance of impropriety whenever possible." According to the article, if one party in a case "can secretly approach the judge about a dream job while the case is still under active consideration," it undermines trust in the judiciary. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said there was "no conflict whatsoever." The accusation came on the same day the American Bar Association [official website] gave Roberts its highest rating [JURIST report] for the Supreme Court. Newsday has more.



 

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