It was predictable that Neil Gorsuch, once belted into the Merrick Garland Seat on the Supreme Court, would execute rolling stops through most of the “This is Unethical” signs posted along the way of his remaining career. He’s a mega-church Evangelical type, after all. People like this confuse their mortal impulses for signs from Jesus, so when one of them is inclined to do something, whatever it is he’s inclined to do is, by definition, what Jesus would do.
And when an outfit called the “Fund for American Studies” (FAS) invited Gorsuch to speak to its group at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, Gorsuch’s gut told him to say yes, which he did — with the blessing of Jesus, of course.
As Donald Trump is known to fleece nonprofits, and assuming that FAS is one, we can deduce that Trump is charging FAS for the use of his gaudy hotel to the tune of far more than whatever a gilded ballroom should cost. One imagines that, to pay the tab, FAS will need a prodigious turnout.
So it’s useful that FAS secured, as its headliner, a United States Supreme Court justice. According to the New York Times, Gorsuch is to deliver the keynote address at the Trump-Hotel event, which is the 50th anniversary celebration for FAS. We all know what a keynote address is, but just to get an authoritative meaning on the table, let’s check with Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, which defines it thusly:
[A]n address designed to present the issues of primary interest to an assembly (such as a political convention) and often to arouse unity and enthusiasm[;] the main speech given at a gathering (such as a political convention) . . .
It is up to Gorsuch, then, to give the main speech at the FAS event — the one that’s of primary interest to FAS guests. It’s up to Gorsuch to arouse the enthusiasm of the attendees. It’s the Neil Gorsuch Show: no Gorsuch, no show.
So Trump is charging FAS money, which will presumably be paid for by the crowd, which in turn is being drawn by a US Supreme Court justice.
We can therefore answer the question posed above: Gorsuch has his hand in Trump’s pocket to stuff it with cash.
That’s a curious thing to be doing just weeks before you’re scheduled to decide on the constitutionality of Trump’s (unconstitutional) Muslim travel ban. But luckily for Gorsuch, that case might be moot by the time his vote must be cast.
Even more problematic would be other cases presently pending before courts of the United States. Any case that is before a US federal court right now can — and in any case involving serious constitutional issues, almost certainly will — wind up before the US Supreme Court and its most junior associate Justice: Neil Gorsuch.
Here’s the caption of one of those cases right now:
And here’s a screenshot of the critical allegations in the complaint. See whether you can discern what it’s mostly about:
That’s right. Trump stands accused, in a lawsuit that has considerable merit, of violating the United States Constitution (its Emoluments Clauses, to be specific) by retaining control of the very hotel Neil Gorsuch will visit and enrich as the keynote speaker at the FAS event.
One wonders how Gorsuch will rule on the question whether Trump’s ownership of the hotel presents some conflict of interest after Gorsuch engenders his own by generating hotel business that will swell Trump’s personal bank account. But one doesn’t wonder too much.
Per the New York Times, some commentators have no problem with this Gorsuch-Trump financial arrangement:
First the obvious: if legal ethicists are divided as to whether you should do something, then doing it provides a definitional example of the appearance of impropriety, which results, of course, when some people will see it as creating an unacceptable conflict even if others won’t.
And as to how Gorsuch’s appearance at Trump’s hotel is not problematic even though Trump’s ownership of the hotel is, I will leave that to Professor Lubet to explain. Perhaps he has overlooked the FAS tab and the meaning of the term keynote address.
A United States Supreme Court justice should not have his hand in a president’s pocket — either to take something from it or, even worse, to put something in it.