|Cibolo Creek Ranch|
Scalia died Saturday at Cibolo Creek Ranch, and revelations about ranch owner John B. Poindexter and his apparent favors to a Supreme Court justice should prompt a criminal investigation, not only of Scalia but of other members of the high court and the federal judiciary.
Why? The facts surrounding Scalia's vacation to Texas, as we know them now, strongly suggest bribery or a kickback--and maybe obstruction of justice, or some combination of the three. If Scalia so baldly accepted gifts from a businessman whose company had appeared before the high court, did other justices behave in a similar manner? And if such corruption was common at America's "citadel of justice," was it also present in the 11 judicial circuits around the country?
How ugly could this story get? The original report, from reporters Mark Berman and Jerry Markon at The Washington Post, suggests it could get pretty darned ugly. From the report:
Who pays for a Supreme Court justice to make this kind of trip?
Not Scalia, it turns out. Poindexter told The Washington Post that Scalia was not charged for his stay, something he described as a policy for all guests at the ranch.
“I did not pay for the Justice’s trip to Cibolo Creek Ranch,” Poindexter wrote in a brief email Tuesday. “He was an invited guest, along with a friend, just like 35 others.”
Poindexter added: “The Justice was treated no differently by me, as no one was charged for activities, room and board, beverages, etc. That is a 22-year policy.’’
Poindexter's policy toward guests at his ranch is irrelevant, of course. But any relationship Poindexter and his subordinates might have had with Scalia--and how it might have affected a case before SCOTUS--is extremely relevant. Was an agreement in place that Scalia would treat Poindexter's case favorably in exchange for a "vacation hunting trip" and perhaps a rendezvous with a "friend"? Did Scalia receive other types of favors that perhaps have not reached public attention yet?
These questions require a serious investigation, one that should be wide-ranging, way beyond Scalia. Personal experience tells me that federal courts are a cesspool, especially for plaintiffs and non-corporate parties. Scalia's death could be an occasion to shine a much-needed spotlight on the courts. If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, it raises the specter of federal crimes.
|Houston headquarters of|
J.P. Poindexter and Co.
Justice Antonin Scalia was taking a free vacation at the exclusive Cibolo Creek Ranch in West Texas when he was found dead inside a guest room Saturday. The trip, the Washington Post reports, was a gift from the ranch’s owner, who just last year obtained a favorable result from the Supreme Court.
The 30,000-acre hunting ranch, located around 30 miles from the Mexican border in the West Texas town of Shafter, is also the home of owner John B. Poindexter, who owns the Houston-based manufacturing firm J.B. Poindexter and Co.
The two men already had a tenuous connection outside of the ranch. Last year, an age discrimination suit filed against the Mic Group, a subsidiary of J.B. Poindexter and Co., reached the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.
The high court's refusal to hear the case meant circuit and district court rulings favoring Mic Group would stand--a nice outcome, indeed, for ranch owner J.B. Poindexter.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Poindexter insisted he treated Scalia just like his other guests. But that is beside the point. His other guests likely had not taken oaths to uphold the nation's laws, including the guarantees of due process and equal protection--to which the plaintiff in the Mic Group case was entitled. From the Post report:
Poindexter, who would not identify Scalia’s friend, is a Texas native and decorated Vietnam veteran who owns Houston-based J.B. Poindexter and Co., a manufacturing firm.
The company has seven subsidiaries, with combined annual revenue of nearly $1 billion, according to information on its website. Among the items it manufacturers are delivery vans for UPS and FedEx and machine components for limousines and hearses. The company has 5,000 employees, the site said.
One of Poindexter’s companies was involved in a case that made it to the high court. Last year, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving an age discrimination lawsuit filed against one of these companies, court records show.
Could the age-discrimination case have cost Poindexter and his company a bunch of money? Not much is known about the case at the moment, but the answer possibly is yes. It's also possible that the case would not have hurt the company much, but Poindexter might just like to use his access to Scalia--sort of a way to show off for his corporate friends. The case is styled James Hinga v. Mic Group LLC.
According to The Post, many more unknowns are out there:
The nature of Poindexter’s relationship with Scalia remained unclear Tuesday, one of several lingering questions about his visit. It was not known whether Scalia had paid for his own ticket to fly to the ranch or if someone else picked up the tab, just as it was not immediately clear if Scalia had visited before.
It is also still not known who else was at the Texas ranch for the weekend, and unless that is revealed, there could be concerns about who could have tried to raise an issue around Scalia, said Stephen Gillers, who teaches legal and judicial ethics at the New York University School of Law. He compared it to unease that arises when judges and officials from major companies are invited to seminars or educational events that bring them together for periods of time.
Was there something about the Hinga case that made Poindexter and Co. officials nervous? Did that cause the company owner to make arrangements with Scalia for a favorable verdict? Or did Poindexter seek access to SCOTUS just because he could?
These questions should not be pushed aside. They go to the very heart of our justice system, and they demand a thorough investigation.