Following up on my post, Ninth Circuit Judge Carlos Bea Despicably Agrees to Be Honored by John Eastman’s Claremont Institute, at Event with Orwellian Panel on “Election Integrity”, Judge Bea tells the National Law Journal he’s still coming despite criticism from some legal ethics scholars:
Legal ethics experts are divided over whether Bea’s behavior violates the code of conduct for federal judges, is simply ill-advised or just doesn’t rise to the level of being worthy of significant scrutiny in light of Eastman’s role in promoting election fraud theories, action for which other attorneys have faced discipline. For some observers, the concern is that Bea’s attendance could create the perception that he is not an impartial judge, or that he may lend legitimacy to Eastman’s baseless theories.
“To me, it’s unbecoming of a federal judge to appear in public and accept an award from an institution tied to someone who perpetuated that lie. There’s a general perception of the judiciary that grows with each passing year that it’s a more political institution, that judges are deciding cases based on the ideology of the president who appointed them. So to have a federal judge appearing at an event with someone that’s so clearly tied to not only an extreme ideology, but a dangerous lie … is not something that I think shouldn’t be occurring at all,” said Fix the Court Executive Director Gabe Roth, who first brought attention to the event last week on social media.
In an email, Bea said he intends to accept the award despite criticism and noted that the award is from the institute, not Eastman.
Bea also pointed to a ruling he authored earlier this year as adding to the perception that he applies the law impartially. In the opinion, Bea affirmed the dismissal of a suit the Pasadena Republican Club filed against the Western Justice Center claiming the club’s constitutional rights were violated after the center canceled a scheduled speech to be given by Eastman.
“I think the opinion adds to the perception of impartiality in the application of the law rather than any adoption of Mr. Eastman’s views,” he said in an email.
In a Slate magazine article published last week, law professor Richard Hasen echoed Roth’s concerns, adding that Bea would be lending his credibility to Eastman’s ideas by agreeing to be an honoree at an event where Eastman is speaking.
Eastman does not appear to have been sanctioned or face other penalties for his role in the election challenges. He also has not been named as a defendant in the federal civil lawsuits filed over the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Rudy Giuliani, whom Eastman appeared alongside at the day’s rally, has had his law license interimly suspended for his role in promoting election fraud claims, and is targeted in some of the Jan. 6 litigation.
Charles Geyh, a law professor at Indiana University’s Mauer School of Law who studies judicial ethics and conduct, said Bea’s conduct may be more than simply ill-advised. Bea’s decision to accept the award may violate Canon 2 of the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, he said.
The Judicial Conference Committee on Codes of Conduct, which is responsible for interpreting the code, has an advisory opinion stating that before accepting an award, judges must consider whether doing so would “raise the appearance of impropriety or partiality, as enjoined by Canon 2 of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.” It also state judges should not accept an award from a group “whose public image embodies a clearly defined point of view on controversial legal, social, or ethical issues.”
Geyh says the Claremont Institute fits into that definition, given its adoption of increasingly controversial views in recent years. The organization has welcomed as fellows Jack Posobiec, a host for the conservative One America News Network who peddled “Pizzagate” conspiracy theories in 2016, and Charlie Kirk, the founder of the conservative group Turning Point USA.
Bea’s acceptance of the award creates the perception that he “embraces the controversial perspectives” the institute endorses, Geyh said.