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Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch is set to headline the Federalist Society’s annual conference in Florida over the weekend. It’s closed to the press. And while it may not be a great look for a sitting Supreme Court justice to speak at an ideological event, it’s not uncommon. Gorsuch has spoken at Federalist Society events in the past. In fact, all of the conservative justices on the Court currently have ties, in some form or another, to the conservative organization.
But part of what makes this year’s confab so intriguing are the prominent conservative names he will be sharing the program with.
Other guests lined up to speak at the conference include former VP Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Trump’s former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
All of these three were former MAGA world elite — though, notably, all three are also currently not necessarily in the the ex-president’s good graces. Trump is openly peeved at Pence and has been for some time, most recently admitting that Pence defied him when he chose to certify the results of the 2020 election, and urging the Jan. 6 Select Committee to investigate Pence. Reports came out today revealing that McEnany recently met virtually with the Jan. 6 Committee and complied with the panel’s subpoena request for text messages as part of its ongoing probe into the violent Capitol attack.
In this way, at least two of those three big MAGA names are directly tied to lingering questions about the events that unfolded on that very important day. And that adds a layer of intrigue to Gorsuch’s appearance at the closed-to-the-media event. The Supreme Court may well have cases before it again related to the Jan. 6 insurrection and various legal requests for information tied to the attack. The House panel probe is expected to wrap up this year, while it appears the DOJ’s investigation into insurrectionists has expanded to look into circumstances beyond just probing those who stormed the Capitol. Subpoenas related to these investigations will likely continue to be challenged by Trump and his cronies.
SCOTUS has also already ruled on at least two cases relevant to the insurrection and Trump’s Big Lie. Early last year, the high Court opted to reject several cases related to 2020 election challenges filed by Trump and his allies in several key states that President Biden won: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Last month, the Supreme Court in an 8-1 ruling rejected an appeal filed by Trump to block the House committee from gaining access to records from the National Archives related to the Capitol attack.
The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer published an in-depth piece last month looking at the conflicts of interests that Justice Clarence Thomas faces due to his wife, Ginni Thomas’ Jan. 6-related activism. You can read the full piece here. The non-partisan advocacy group Fix the Court’s executive director Gabe Roth told Mayer that the apparent Ginni Thomas conflicts of interest, at the very least, present a need for the Court to do some self reflection and create “a clearer and more exacting recusal standard at the Supreme Court — especially now, as it’s constantly being thrust into partisan battles, and as the public’s faith in its impartiality is waning.”
I reached out to Roth to ask about the upcoming Federalist Society event. He said Gorsuch should, at the bare minimum, mix it up a bit. “I have no problem with Justice Gorsuch speaking at another Federalist Society event. I simply wish that he and other justices who frequent FedSoc would give as many talks before liberal legal organizations,” adding that it is “pretty weak” that the event is closed to the press.
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