As in: They don't publicize their schedules. They don't state their conflicts when recusing themselves from cases. They don't put their financial disclosures online. They don't bind themselves to a code of conduct. And they don't let cameras in the courtroom.Meantime, the Court will be deciding whether to hear a case concerning the right to have fish-nibbling pedicures:
"The Supreme Court has taken on a larger role in American life in recent years. With that increased power comes the need for increased accountability," says Gabe Roth, former manager of the Coalition for Court Transparency, which has focused largely on the need for greater video and audio coverage of the court.
The new effort, to be called "Fix the Court," is intended to bring more media and advertising firepower to what has been a diffused effort on the part of liberal, conservative and government watchdog groups concerned about the high court's renowned seclusion.
It opens Wednesday with a six-figure advertising campaign aimed at politically active fans of Fox and MSNBC, as well as online sites. Funding comes from the non-partisan New Venture Fund.
"They told us where we can pray, picked our president, allowed billionaires to buy elections and made choices of life and death," the ad intones. "Nine judges, appointed for life to a court that makes its own rules and has disdain for openness and transparency — the Supreme Court, the most powerful and least accountable branch of government."
The campaign will open with five goals:
•It wants the justices to specify why they recuse themselves from cases, so the public can gauge their potential conflicts of interest.
•It wants annual financial disclosures filed online, with more details about the justices' benefactors.
•It wants them to abide by the same code of conduct that applies to other federal judges.
•It wants advance notice of their public appearances.
•It wants improved media and public access to their courtroom and plaza.
The justices' elusiveness has baffled reporters for years, inspiring outside efforts to track their travels in advance. The latest is a Twitter-based service called "SCOTUS Map" that collates future appearances on a map of the world.
"They're public figures. What they say makes news," Roth says. "They shouldn't be hiding their public appearances."
A Gilbert spa owner wants the U.S. Supreme Court to rule she has a constitutional right to have fish nibble on her customers’ toes and charge them for that.
Attorney Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute said that’s the only path now open to Cindy Vong, owner of La Vie salon, after the Arizona Supreme Court refused last week to consider her plea. That left in place a state Court of Appeal ruling which said the state Board of Cosmetology was legally entitled to stop her from using the fish.
Bolick said the issue is larger than just Vong.
He said it’s one thing for government to impose restrictions designed to protect public health and safety. But Bolick said the lower court ruling, if left undisturbed, allows state officials to ban an entire business practice.
“The issue is really a business’s right to exist,” he said.
My fellow germaphobes, would you put your feet in that water?
He cited a study done by the health protection agency in the United Kingdom.
“There has not been a single documented instance of harm from fish spas in the entire world,” Bolick said. “And that has been confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.”
He also said that UK study found the risk to be “miniscule” and can be further reduced by following certain health and safety protocols.
Aune dismissed the UK study, saying that health oversight in Europe is not the same as it is here, with no real place for consumers who had developed infections to complain.
She said Arizona and other states had a problem about a decade ago when contaminated water used for foot baths resulted in ulcers on the legs of customers.
“It was the buildup in the pipes that weren’t getting cleaned out each night and each week,” Aune said.
She said that, questions of whether the fish themselves can transmit disease, the same problems can develop from having the fish in the water. And Aune said there’s really no way to disinfect the water.
“Not without killing the fish,” she said.
“They dirty the water,” Aune continued. “The water could never stay clear.”