From the Brennan Center for Justice, Fair Courts E-Lert October 15, 2010:
Justice Elena Kagan’s decision to recuse herself in 25 of the cases the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear continues to inspire discussion about judicial disqualification. A New York Times editorial praises Justice Kagan’s decision, but questions the credibility of a judicial system that relies on voluntary recusal. The editorial recounts two recent examples – Justice Antonin Scalia’s decision not to disqualify himself from a case involving then-Vice President Cheney, with whom the Justice socialized, and Caperton v. Massey, the 2009 landmark recusal case – in which unclear recusal guidelines cast doubt on judicial impartiality. Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is currently pushing legislation to allow retired Supreme Court justices to return to the bench if a current justice must recuse, but the Times editorial contends a more vigorous disqualification process is necessary. Meanwhile, another Times editorial argues that Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife should be required to disclose donors to the conservative nonprofit organization she leads so that Justice Thomas can “comply with a fundamental ethical and legal requirement to “disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” A separate Times article reports that Mrs. Thomas – who recently appeared at a large Tea Party convention – is playing “the most partisan role ever for a spouse of a justice on the nation’s highest court.”
Justice Thomas and His Wife, New York Times, October 12, 2010; Activism of Thomas’s Wife Could Raise Judicial Issues, New York Times, Jackie Calmes, October 8, 2010; Recusals and the Court, New York Times, October 7, 2010.