The members of the US Supreme Court and high elected officials get good salaries and many perks of the job. For example, the salary of the Chief Justice is $258,100 while that of the associate justices is $246,800. This should enable them to live quite comfortably even in the pricey Washington, DC area. What it does not allow for is the ability to live like the millionaire class.
But such positions bring them into contact with extremely wealthy people who seek to influence them, and their social circle will frequently include those who are much richer than them. Hence it is possible that they may be tempted to also try and live the high life without the income to sustain it, the kind of behavior that often leads to financial ruin for people who want to keep up with the Joneses.
But since many of the wealthy seek to curry favor with these politically and legally powerful people in order to get favors, they may use the offer of vacations and parties and meals and the like to get on their good side. This can tempt some government officials to think that they can live extremely well without actually spending any money.
The death of Antonin Scalia at an exclusive resort owned by a wealthy individual where people can come only by invitation and to which Scalia traveled to by private plane has opened a window into this world of expensive gifts and hospitality.
Scalia was at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a resort tucked away in the Big Bend region of Texas about 30 miles from the border with Mexico.
The ranch is 30,000-acre getaway that is home to John B. Poindexter, according to the website of J.B. Poindexter & Co. It is a remote location that has reportedly attracted the likes of Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall and Bruce Willis.
All of which raises the question: Who pays for a Supreme Court justice to make this kind of trip?
Not Scalia, it turns out. Poindexter told The Washington Post that Scalia was not charged for his stay, something he described as a policy for all guests at the ranch.
However, Poindexter said he did not pay for Scalia’s charter flight to Texas.
The nature of Poindexter’s relationship with Scalia remained unclear Tuesday, one of several lingering questions about his visit. It was not known whether Scalia had paid for his own ticket to fly to the ranch or if someone else picked up the tab, just as it was not immediately clear if Scalia had visited before.
The article said that Scalia attended with an unidentified ‘friend’, someone who, like Poindexter, had cases before the Supreme Court and who may have paid for the flight there.
It is also still not known who else was at the Texas ranch for the weekend, and unless that is revealed, there could be concerns about who could have tried to raise an issue around Scalia, said Stephen Gillers, who teaches legal and judicial ethics at the New York University School of Law. He compared it to unease that arises when judges and officials from major companies are invited to seminars or educational events that bring them together for periods of time.
“People worry at those kinds of things; there’s a creation of access on the part of people with an interest in the courts, and that is unfair,” Gillers said Tuesday.
It turns out that Scalia loved these subsidized pricey vacations and took 258 of them in a ten-year period, the most of any justice.
There seems to be something deeply alluring about living the fancy lifestyle. The recipients of such gifts may like to think that they are disciplined and high-minded enough that they will not be influenced by being treated so lavishly by those who have business before them, but there is something definitely unseemly about public servants staying at fancy resorts as guests of the rich and famous who need something from them. It causes the rest of us to doubt the impartiality of those who should be acting in the public interest.