WASHINGTON - Lawyers for the Sierra Club formally requested yesterday that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia step aside from ruling in the forthcoming case involving Vice President Dick Cheney and his energy task force, saying the two men's recent duck hunting trip had created the appearance that the justice is likely to favor the vice president in the dispute.
A recusal by Scalia "is necessary to redress an appearance of impropriety and to restore public confidence in the integrity of our nation's highest court," said David Bookbinder, the Sierra Club's legal director in Washington.
His "motion to recuse" was sent to the full court, "since the integrity of the entire court is being called into question," Bookbinder said.
In mid-December, the high court voted to take up Cheney's appeal that seeks to reverse a judge's order requiring the vice president to turn over documents detailing who participated in a task force, headed by Cheney, that set the administration's energy policy. This seemingly minor dispute has grown over the past three years as Cheney has insisted on secrecy, contending that any administration needs a guarantee of "uninhibited" advice from experts.
Since the duck-hunting trip was first reported by the Los Angeles Times in the middle of last month, editorials in 20 of the nation's 30 largest newspapers have urged Scalia to withdraw from the case, according to the Sierra Club's motion.
Scalia has maintained that social contacts between justices and high government officials are routine in Washington and do not require a judge to step aside when those officials have cases in "their official capacity" before the court.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.