March 15, 2010

EUGENE VOLOKH: Justice Thomas and Judge Reinhardt:

Today’s L.A. Times print edition carries an article with the headline, “Challenging a judicial norm,” and the subhead, “A justice’s wife may test impartiality standards by starting a ‘tea party’ group.” (The online version has a different headline and a slightly different subhead.) The article is about Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who has just founded Liberty Central Inc., a conservative activist group.

Of course, Justice Thomas is not the only judge to have had a spouse in a prominent political role. Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt’s wife, Ramona Ripston, has just stepped down from being head of the Southern California ACLU. Third Circuit Judge Jane Roth’s husband was a U.S. Senator; Third Circuit Judge Marjorie Rendell’s husband is a governor. So I’m not sure that there’s really a judicial norm that judge’s spouses should stay out of politics, whether partisan politics, advocacy group politics, or public interest litigation (itself a form of politics, at least when done effectively).

Sure, but those spouses lean left. Meanwhile, let’s look at who the journalists are sleeping with . . . .

Plus, I can’t help but note that the Thomases are an interracial couple, something the L.A. Times stresses via a photograph of them together. Thus, this must really be all about racism.

And, anyway, it’s not like we have sitting judges comparing the President to Hitler and Mussolini or anything.