The Wall Street Journal editorial page
-- whence cometh talking points for all those right-wing radio
and TV types -- has weighed in with congratulations for our
local boy, Danny Boggs, chief judge on the U.S. 6th Circuit
Court of Appeals.
When last we checked, three other judges had quit the board
of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment,
which provides free "study" trips to Montana resorts
for folks on the federal bench.
But our man Boggs, the object of a judicial misconduct complaint
by Doug Kendall from the Community Rights Counsel, decided
not to quit, obviously hoping that his counterpart on the
11th Circuit who was handling the complaint, James Loken,
would absolve him and provide cover for his continued service
on the FREE board.
Loken did just that, noting that Boggs (1) got an advisory
opinion from the Committee on Codes of Conduct before joining
the FREE board, (2) is not accused of taking any specific
position or action that would suggest a quid pro quo
for free trips, and (3) has "paid due regard to the relevant
Loken contends nothing in the complaint "casts doubt
on Judge Boggs' statement that FREE does not litigate and
does not take official positions." Further, two former
U.S. attorneys found, after review, that FREE seminars present
"a varied, balanced, intellectually challenging and rigorous
series of educational opportunities for participants."
All of which prompted the WSJ this week to revel in
Boggs' "vindication" and "victory," which
"is shared by all federal judges who attend privately
funded judicial seminars with the honorable goal of learning
something." While enjoying the resort-type amenities,
But let's hold up on the balloons and confetti. Loken found
no evidence that FREE takes positions? How about the footnote
in his own decision, which quotes the FREE Web site itself
as saying the organization "has consistently fought corporate
subsidies fostering exploitation, and strongly advocates such
efforts as wolf reintroduction to the federal lands."
True, those two sound like tree-hugger positions, but the
point is, they're proof of advocacy.
The WSJ and Loken argue that no judge would ever learn
anything if it were necessary to drop out of seminars whenever
somebody charged bias. Obviously that's ludicrous. All a judge
has to do is pay for his or her own educational trip. Then
nobody can complain, even if it includes trail rides in the
Loken's decision notwithstanding, any judge who accepts one
of FREE's $10,000 multi-day trips to Montana resort country
owes the public an explanation. As the CRC and Kendall point
out, FREE is substantially funded by corporations such as
Texaco, which provide speakers to coach judges on their version
of environmental law, including the "rejection of command-and-control
Kendall says FREE takes money for the excursions from foundations
that are "simultaneously providing six-figure support
for other organizations that challenge environmental laws
in federal court, often before the judges who take FREE trips
(or serve on FREE's board)."
What Loken actually concluded was that each judge should decide,
individually, whether to take FREE's travel bennies. Boggs
should decide to pay his own way, and get off FREE's board.
Loken warns against isolating judges from civic life, but
that begs the question: Should judges' civic participation
be financed by advocacy groups -- whether they favor wolves
or the most piggish exemplars of free market capitalism? The
answer is, they shouldn't.
But conservatives train their folks to expect nice things.
For example, the Heritage Foundation is taking very good care
of its 64 summer interns. Jason DeParle of The New York
Times reports, "They are young and bright and ardently
right. They tack Ronald Reagan calendars on their cubicle
walls and devote brown bag lunches to the free market theories
of Friedrich von Hayek. They come from 51 colleges and 28
states, calling for low taxes, strong defense and dorm rooms
with a view." About half are "housed in a subsidized
dorm at the group's headquarters, complete with a fitness
room." And walk-in closets.
One of the cosseted is a recent Western Kentucky University
graduate, Joel Peyton, who considers privatizing services
in national parks a grand idea. After three summers in a Kentucky
state park, he thinks government-run operations stink. Which
prompted Heritage Foundation senior fellow Ronald Utt to shout,
"Get this guy!"
In case you're wondering, our Courier-Journal editorial
intern, Andrew Martin from the University of Kentucky, is
a libertarian conservative. The apartment he's sharing at
the Kentucky Towers has fairly high ceilings and a walk-in
We're doing our part.
David Hawpe's columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays on the
Editorial page. You can read them online at www.courier-journal.com.