Last week, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch dined with Republican senators, and a whole host of other high-level Washington officials. All Republicans, of course.
Gorsuch was sworn into to the Supreme Court after the seat remained vacant for a full 14 months following the death of Antonin Scalia. Scalia’s seat set the record for the longest vacated as Republicans held it hostage in hopes that Obama would be replaced by a Republican, whether Russian-installed or otherwise. As a result, Democrats were almost unanimous in opposing Neil Gorsuch’s nomination. But Republicans availed themselves of the so-called “nuclear option” in order to change the rules so that they could confirm Gorsuch to the court with a simple majority. He was ultimately confirmed him in April 2017 after a 54-45 vote.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Monday night that he was among Senator John Cornyn’s (R-TeX) dinner guests, along with Justice Gorsuch, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and others.
I enjoyed having dinner tonight at the home of Senator John Cornyn and his wife Sandy with our newest Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, Transportation Secretary Chao and a few of my other Senate colleagues to talk about important issues facing our country.
— Sen. Lamar Alexander (@SenAlexander) January 23, 2018
As it happens, Elaine Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Details of the dinner are scant, but it’s surprising that Gorsuch would choose to engage in such a way. He’s the newbie and is considered by many to be occupying a seat that was stolen from a rightful Obama appointment. While nobody is publicly raising ethical questions at the moment, the Code of Conduct strongly cautions judges against wading into political matters:
Canon 4: A Judge May Engage in Extrajudicial Activities that are Consistent with the Obligations of Judicial Office
“A judge may engage in extrajudicial activities, including law-related pursuits and civic, charitable, educational, religious, social, financial, fiduciary, and governmental activities, and may speak, write, lecture, and teach on both law-related and nonlegal subjects. However, a judge should not participate in extrajudicial activities that detract from the dignity of the judge’s office, interfere with the performance of the judge’s official duties, reflect adversely on the judge’s impartiality, lead to frequent disqualification, or violate the limitations set forth below.”
Of course, we can’t prove there was politicking at the dinner in question. Republicans are historically such a witty, chill, and affable bunch — maybe they were just having a raucous and apolitical good time?