Common Cause embarrassed itself by attempting to disqualify Justices Scalia and Thomas from the Supreme Court's review of Citizens United v. FEC, in Common Cause's last-ditch effort to overturn the Court's year-old pro-free speech decision. Ben Smith's report demonstrates precisely how unfounded Common Cause's attack was.
But one further detail, reported today by the Legal Times, makes Common Cause -- and the New York Times -- look still worse: The Justices did not merely receive reimbursement from the Federalist Society, rather than by the Koch Industries, as Common Cause alleged (and the New York Times failed to question). Both Justices reported those reimbursements – Scalia in 2008, Thomas in 2009 .
Those disclosures were publicly available when Common Cause wrote and filed its petition, and when the Times's Eric Lichtblau wrote his report. Yet neither could be bothered to check those public records before publicly impugning Justices Thomas and Scalia.
The Times's treatment of the story stands in marked contrast to its disinterest in another recent incident involving judicial ethics. Two months ago, when parties defending California's pro-traditional marriage referendum in federal court sought the recusal of Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt – whose wife led the ACLU chapter involved in the filing of the anti-referendum lawsuit – the Times published only a one-paragraph Associated Press account of Judge Reinhardt's refusal to recuse himself. That story did not even refer to the judge's wife's specific involvement in the case. (And it did not report the original filing of the refusal request at all.) All despite the fact that the Times had called the case as "an instant landmark in American history."
The Times's sudden concern for judicial ethics is telling.