Justice Scalia denies that there are any problems with his two recent hunting trips paid for by people with cases coming before the Supreme Court. (His precise response: “Quack quack”.)
As far as I know, Supreme Court justices are invulnerable to any challenge except impeachment by Congress, and with the Delay-Lott Congress we still have, impeachment is unthinkable. Thus Scalia is untouchable and knows it, and is acting accordingly.
The authors of the constitution certainly must have recognized that there are certain critical points of vulnerability in our system of checks and balances, and that Supreme Court Justices are among the most important of these. I would imagine that over the years, quite a bit has been written about the system’s dependence on having individuals of a high ethical standard located at these critical positions. (Nope, no citations. Am I wrong?)
But like most people who call themselves conservatives, Scalia seems entirely indifferent to conflict-of-interest considerations. Whereas the founding fathers presumably hoped that people in these positions would discipline themselves, Scalia seems to have decided that since there are no real legal restrictions on his behavior, that means that he can do anything he damn well pleases.
This feeling of sovereign and invulnerable entitlement, rather reminiscent of that of a feudal lord or a Saudi prince, is also widely felt among the captains of industry and by Republican political leaders. Many of these recognize no limits to their actions except the letter of the law, and often enough they feel justified in ignoring the law too if it cramps their style. “Trust us!” is their motto.
If you’re wondering who I’m talking about, Scalia’s hunting partner Dick Cheney would be a pretty good example. And also the Idiot King imposed on us in the year 2000 by Scalia and four of his friends.
P.S. Note Lessig’s dilemma in “The Court Ignores Its Own Principles”. He thought that he could win by arguing on the basis of the principles in which he knew the Justices believed. He’s puzzled that that didn’t work, but there’s no mystery here at all if you assume that at least five of the justices are political operatives.