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The Supreme Court Justice and the Billionaire: A Fishing Trip to Remember

Image credits: ProPublica

What happens when a Supreme Court Justice and a billionaire hedge fund manager go on a fishing trip together? Sounds like the beginning of a joke, but in reality, it’s the basis of a recent investigation by ProPublica. Justice Samuel Alito reportedly took a luxury fishing vacation to Alaska in 2008 with Paul Singer, a hedge fund billionaire who has repeatedly asked the Supreme Court to rule in his favor in high-stakes business disputes. Singer flew Alito to Alaska on a private jet, and the cost could have exceeded $100,000 one way. In the years that followed, Singer’s hedge fund came before the court at least 10 times in cases where his role was often covered by the legal press and mainstream media.

Image credits: ABC News

The Supreme Court justices are almost entirely left to police themselves on ethical issues, with few restrictions on what gifts they can accept. However, by failing to disclose the private jet flight Singer provided, Alito appears to have violated a federal law that requires justices to disclose most gifts. Experts said they could not identify an instance of a justice ruling on a case after receiving an expensive gift paid for by one of the parties.

Image credits: USA TODAY

ProPublica’s investigation sheds new light on how luxury travel has given prominent political donors — including one who has had cases before the Supreme Court — intimate access to the most powerful judges in the country. Another wealthy businessman provided expensive vacations to two members of the high court, ProPublica found. Such trips would be unheard of for the vast majority of federal workers, who are generally barred from taking even modest gifts.

Image credits: POLITICO

While Justice Alito has defended his failure to report the trip to the public, saying that justices “commonly interpreted” the disclosure requirements to not include “accommodations and transportation for social events,” lawmakers have launched investigations and called for ethics reform. Recent bills would impose tighter rules for justices’ recusals, require the Supreme Court to adopt a binding code of conduct, and create an ethics body, which would investigate complaints.

Image credits: Business Insider

The Supreme Court has not yet responded to these calls for ethics reform, with Chief Justice John Roberts repeatedly suggesting Congress might not have the power to regulate the court at all. However, the recent revelations of undisclosed gifts have prompted lawmakers to push for change.

Image credits: Esquire

In the meantime, the fishing trip between Justice Alito and billionaire Paul Singer has become a topic of conversation among politically mature audiences in the USA. While some may find it amusing to imagine the unlikely duo casting their lines together, others are concerned about the potential ethical implications of such private trips. Regardless, it’s clear that the Supreme Court’s current system of self-policing may need to be reevaluated in light of recent events.


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