Ross: The luxurious lifestyle of a Supreme Court justice

Ross: The luxurious lifestyle of a Supreme Court justice


In this week’s discussion with Rob McKenna, we talked about Justice Clarence Thomas’s friend Harlan Crow. Crow made his fortune in real estate and invited Justice Thomas on many exotic trips, including yacht cruises during which they discussed nothing that might ever come before the United States Supreme Court.

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I didn’t fully appreciate Mr. Crow’s affinity for the legal profession until Rob told me that he himself was among a group of lawyers invited to a non-profit event at Mr. Crow’s estate in Dallas – which features an unusual collection of statues.

“You’ll see a collection of statues he’s put together from Eastern Europe,” explained McKenna. “He’s got a statue of Tito. He’s got a statue of the assassin of Archduke Ferdinand, who started World War I. He’s collected all the statues that became available with the fall of the Iron Curtain.”

But as Rob explained, it’s quite common for Supreme Court justices, liberal and conservative, to be invited to socialize with the rich because rich people like to have celebrities around, and Supreme Court justices are celebrities. And based on his research, there is no quid pro quo involved.

“It is interesting that for all the scrutiny of these hundreds and thousands of trips that the justices have accepted and the hospitality they accepted, I haven’t found a single piece of evidence that they were influenced in their decision making,” said McKenna. “Now, is it possible to say that this never happened? No, you can’t say it never happened, but you’d think it would have been turned up by now if it had.”

But the way I see it – OK, there may be no OBVIOUS quid pro quo, but there IS a subtle message – along the lines of, “Why should we do anything that might cramp this man’s lifestyle?”

So that maybe if something like…a capital gains excise tax comes before the court, a justice might, if only for a fleeting moment, wonder whether someone like Harlan Crow would be able to afford his next statue.

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I make no allegations here – but I can see how non-billionaires might have trouble believing that justice is truly blind when the nation’s most powerful justices regularly vacation in the magic kingdoms of the 0.1%. This is why I would like to take this opportunity to invite any justice who wants a more modest outing to my beach cottage for a cozy sunset barbecue – provided it’s not during the king tide when the property tends to flood.

But not to worry, there is running water, and the toilet flushes most of the time. Unfortunately, there are no statues of dead dictators, but I do have a piece of driftwood that looks like a pterodactyl.

Anyway, you know where to contact me.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.





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