Antonin Scalia was the longest-tenured justice on the current Supreme Court and the country’s most prominent constitutionalist. But another quality also set him apart: Among the court’s members, he was the most frequent traveler, to spots around the globe, on trips paid for by private sponsors.
When Justice Scalia died two weeks ago, he was staying, again for free, at a West Texas hunting lodge owned by a businessman whose company had recently had a matter before the Supreme Court.
Though that trip has brought new attention to the justice’s penchant for travel, it was in addition to the 258 subsidized trips that he took from 2004 to 2014. Justice Scalia went on at least 23 privately funded trips in 2014 alone to places like Hawaii, Ireland and Switzerland, giving speeches, participating in moot court events or teaching classes. A few weeks before his death, he was in Singapore and Hong Kong.
Here is some context
In 2011, a liberal advocacy group, Common Cause, questioned whether Justice Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas should have disqualified themselves from participating in the landmark Citizens United case on campaign finance because they had attended a political retreat in Palm Springs, Calif., sponsored by the conservative financier Charles G. Koch. Mr. Koch funds groups that could benefit from the ruling. The disclosure report filed by Justice Thomas made no mention of the retreat. It said only that he had taken a trip, funded by the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, to Palm Springs to give a speech.
Over roughly a decade, Justice Scalia took 21 trips sponsored by the Federalist Society, to places like Park City, Utah; Napa, Calif.; and Bozeman, Mont. The Federalist Society also paid for trips by Justice Alito during that period, but not for any liberal justices, the disclosure reports show.
“There are fair questions raised by some of these trips about their commitment to being impartial,” said Stephen Spaulding, the legal director at Common Cause. “They are dancing so close to the line with overtly political events.”