Billionaire George Soros, a naturalized American citizen born in Hungary, takes a lively interest in the politics of his adopted country. Soros, who made his first big killing in the field of international finance by betting against the British pound, spent $24 million of his own hard-earned money trying to defeat George W. Bush and elect John Kerry in the presidential election of 2004. He is now plowing millions more into supporting such leftist agitprop organizations as MoveOn.org, to influence the coming congressional elections. And, apparently equally discontented with the political direction of various European countries, he is reportedly putting even greater sums (apparently in the hundreds of millions of dollars) into ventures to influence the politics of those nations.
So it may seem like nitpicking to call attention to a smaller beneficiary of Soros' largess, the Community Rights Counsel. But the CRC has been busy since 1998 blasting away at the federal judiciary, all too many of whose members (in Soros' opinion) are succumbing to the blandishments of two evil conservative organizations: the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) of Bozeman, Mont. and the Law & Economics Center (LEC) of George Mason University in Virginia.
It is the practice of FREE and LEC to invite federal judges and law professors to attend educational seminars, which CRC describes as "lavish" affairs held at fancy "resorts," where they are allegedly brainwashed on such dangerously conservative subjects as property rights. Worse yet, FREE and LEC reimburse the attendants for their travel and lodging expenses. (Not that there is anything unlawful about that: The rules of the federal judiciary entitle judges to recover such out-of-pocket expenses.)
Still, CRC's loud complaints have roused a certain amount of uneasiness in Congress, among members of both parties. House Judiciary Committee chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, of the Senate Judiciary Committee have both introduced bills that would require the chief justice to appoint an inspector general of the federal judiciary, who would report annually both to him and to Congress and report any judicial misconduct to the Justice Department. Such an encroachment on judicial independence raises serious constitutional issues.
In the circumstances, therefore, there is actually more to be said in favor of the approach of Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. He has submitted a bill which would appropriate $2 million a year to a Judicial Education Fund, which would provide about $2,000 apiece to each federal judge to reimburse expenses involved in attending educational seminars. There are various problems with Leahy's bill, but none that can't be corrected.
Meanwhile, however, the CRC's systematic defamation of judges who attend such seminars deserves to be slapped down. There is nothing in the least improper about them. The Judicial Conference of the United States actively encourages judges to enhance their formal legal education.
Moreover, the CRC is curiously selective about which seminars it condemns. The Aspen Institute sponsors a series of "Justice and Society Seminars" that don't elicit a peep from Soros and the CRC. Perhaps that's because they claim to discuss such issues as "the breakdown of long-established hierarchies of race and gender," and read a special collection of writings, including works by John Rawls and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Seminar "moderators" have included Supreme Court Justices Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr., John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You get the picture.
In their off hours, the participants can "enjoy Aspen's beautiful setting in the Rocky Mountains, work out in the well equipped health center, or join in afternoon activities such as white-water rafting, hiking, tennis and horseback riding. Evening activities include The Aspen Music Festival, BalletAspen, public lectures and films."
Why isn't Soros outraged?