On January 14, 2009, at 3:45PM President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden held a pre-inaugural meeting with Justices of the Supreme Court Of the United States (SCOTUS), including Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a fellow Harvard law graduate whose confirmation Obama opposed three years ago.
In and of itself this is nothing particularly unusual. Twice in recent history, incoming presidents have paid pre-inaugural visits to the SCOTUS. President Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush did so in 1981, and President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore in 1992.
What makes Obama’s and Biden’s visit with the SCOTUS Justices something of interest – and possibly something of a problem – is that both Obama and Biden are named Defendants in multiple lawsuits throughout the country, which are challenging the Constitutional eligibility of Barack Obama’s Presidency. Several of these lawsuits are currently awaiting decisions by the US Supreme Court as to whether or not the court will hear them.
It would be a reasonable assertion, if not a foregone conclusion, that by meeting with Obama and Biden the SCOTUS Justices violated legal professional responsibility rules.
A JUDGE SHALL UPHOLD AND PROMOTE THE INDEPENDENCE, INTEGRITY, AND IMPARTIALITY OF THE JUDICIARY, AND SHALL AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY
— American Bar Association
ABA Model Code Of Judicial Conduct – February 2007
Canon 1, Rule 1.2
Biden is a veteran Senator and Obama is a product of the Chicago school of politics. Not to put too fine a point on it, but one would have to be horribly naive to be surprised at impropriety or the appearance of impropriety on their respective parts; skirting the edges of the law, if not outright violating it, are expected behaviors of those sorts of politicians. However, America has always held its judiciary to a higher standard of behavior than it has its Legislature.
Lower court judges have been removed from the bench for meeting privately with defendants in criminal or tort cases. I wonder what standard will be applied to the SCOTUS in this new era.