WASHINGTON (AP) — In typically combative style, Supreme
Court Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed a request yesterday that he
stay out of a case involving his friend, Vice President Dick
Cheney, saying a duck hunting trip they took was acceptable
socializing that wouldn’t cloud his judgment.

“If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice
can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had
imagined,” Scalia wrote in response to the Sierra
Club’s request that he disqualify himself.

The environmental organization is pursuing a lawsuit that seeks
to compel the Bush administration to release information about
closed-door meetings of Cheney’s energy task force, which
crafted the administration’s energy policy.

At issue in the case are allegations that energy industry
executives and lobbyists were in on the Cheney meetings while
environmentalists were shut out. Cheney is a former energy
executive.

In his 21-page statement, Scalia revealed details for the first
time of his trip with Cheney to Louisiana, where the justice hunts
each winter.

He said he was the go-between to invite Cheney to hunt with a
Scalia friend, Wallace Carline, who owns an oil rig services firm.
Scalia and Cheney are friends from their days working in the Ford
administration, the justice noted, and the trip plans were made
before the energy case went before the court.

Scalia and Cheney flew together on a government jet, accompanied
by one of Scalia’s sons and a son-in-law. The justice said
that he still bought a round-trip airline ticket and “none of
us saved a cent by flying on the vice president’s
plane.”

The court agreed in December to hear the energy task force case,
and three weeks later Scalia and Cheney flew to Carline’s
hunting camp.

The trip spurred calls from some Democratic lawmakers and dozens
of newspapers for Scalia to recuse himself. The Sierra Club spoke
of “the continuing damage this affair is doing to the
prestige and credibility of this court.”

Supreme Court justices, unlike judges on other courts, decide
for themselves if they have conflicts, and their decisions are
final. There was no obligation for Scalia to explain his decision,
but he did in a 21-page memorandum.

The conservative Reagan administration appointee said that
despite “embarrassing criticism and adverse publicity”
he saw no reason to step aside because of the 48-hour excursion
with the vice president.

“My recusal is required if … my impartiality might
reasonably be questioned,” Scalia said. “Why would that
result follow from my being in a sizable group of persons, in a
hunting camp with the vice president, where I never hunted with him
in the same blind or had other opportunity for private
conversation?”

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