Justice Antonin Scalia of the United States Supreme Court bluntly rejected demands today that he step aside in a case involving Vice President Dick Cheney, mocking criticism that a duck hunting trip that the two were on together in January indicated possible favoritism for his longtime friend.
“If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined,” Justice Scalia wrote in a 21-page memorandum bristling with defiance and offering lessons in the ways of Washington.
The Sierra Club, which had formally demanded Justice Scalia’s recusal in a case it is pursuing against the vice president, responded to the justice’s remarks by saying that it still believed that he should step down from the case but that it would not pursue the issue further.
“It would have been terrific if Justice Scalia had released this information back in January, when the American public first began raising questions about the trip,” said David Bookbinder, Washington legal director of the Sierra Club.
Arguing that the hunting trip raised doubts about Justice Scalia’s impartiality, the Sierra Club had asked him not to participate in the Cheney case, which involves the club’s effort to obtain data about private meetings of the vice president’s energy task force in 2001. The court agreed to hear an appeal in the case shortly before the hunting trip, which prompted editorial pages across the country to echo the Sierra Club’s concern that Justice Scalia should not help render a ruling.
But Justice Scalia said that throughout American history justices have had high-ranking government friends and that as recently as Christmas, other justices were socializing with Mr. Cheney at the vice president’s home.
“A rule that required members of this court to remove themselves from cases in which official actions of friends were at issue would be utterly disabling,” Justice Scalia wrote.
During the hunting trip to Louisiana, which the memorandum said had involved 13 hunters in addition to Mr. Cheney’s security detail, “I never hunted in the same blind with the vice president,” Justice Scalia wrote.