Thursday, August 24, 2006

NYTIMES to Judge Taylor: You idiot!

Politics: Every once in a while judicial watch gets something right and does the Times hate that it had to be this situation.

When Judge Anna Diggs Taylor was given the job of deciding whether the Bush administration’s wiretapping program was unconstitutional, she certainly understood that she would be ruling on one of the most politically charged cases in recent history. So it would have been prudent for her to disclose any activity that might conceivably raise questions about her ability to be impartial. Regrettably, it was left to a conservative group, Judicial Watch, to point out her role as a trustee to a foundation that had given grants to a branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, a plaintiff in the case. The foundation in question — the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan — is a large charity that gives out grants to a broad range of organizations engaged in community activity, including some regularly involved in litigation. The $125,000 in grant money directed to the state A.C.L.U. office over several years was for educational programs concerning issues unrelated to the wiretapping case, like racial profiling. While the judge clearly erred in not disclosing this involvement, it wouldn’t seem, based on the known facts, to rise to the level of a conflict of interest reasonably requiring that she recuse herself from hearing the case under existing ethics rules. Judge Taylor’s role at a grant-making foundation whose list of beneficiaries includes groups that regularly litigate in the courts is still disquieting — and, even worse, it is not all that unusual for a member of the judiciary. The most important lesson here may be the wisdom of re-examining the sort of outside activities that are appropriate for sitting federal judges.

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