BusinessInsider is presently pimping the hell out of a story with the breathless headline “Jane Roberts, who is married to Chief Justice John Roberts, made $10.3 million in commissions from elite law firms, whistleblower documents show.” Jane Roberts, of course, is the wife of Chief Justice John Roberts. Sh**-o’dear, what scandal has this bunch of twits uncovered now?
The story is that Jane Roberts, a very successful lawyer in her own right, dropped out of the legal profession shortly after the Chief Justice was confirmed because she wanted to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest should cases she handled make their way to the Supreme Court. She then embarked on a career as a corporate headhunter finding talent for the top law firms. She has been successful.
There was a time when that would have been a good news story. A high-powered attorney wife punches out of a successful career to avoid an appearance of scandal and becomes successful in her new field. Of course, that was back when you were called a vicious misogynist for noting the obvious problem that existed with Fed chief Alan Greenspan being married to NBC’s chief Washington correspondent Andrea Mitchell. But these are new times, I guess, when attacking Ginni Thomas or Heidi Cruz to get at their husbands is just business as usual.
How did this nothingburger materialize?
All it needed was the media feeding frenzy centered on the Supreme Court (The Left Is Trying to Destroy the Supreme Court Because They Can’t Control It) to give a disgruntled…and probably underperforming…colleague the opening to let a progressive outlet run a hit piece by styling the informant a “whistleblower.” What whistle was blown remains unclear, but we are repeatedly told that this is from a whistleblower, and you know, by golly, that’s got to be the truth.
That eye-popping figure comes from records in a whistleblower complaint filed by a disgruntled former colleague of Roberts, who says that as the spouse of the most powerful judge in the United States, the income she earns from law firms who practice before the Court should be subject to public scrutiny.
“When I found out that the spouse of the chief justice was soliciting business from law firms, I knew immediately that it was wrong,” the whistleblower, Kendal B. Price, who worked alongside Jane Roberts at the legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, told Insider in an interview. “During the time I was there, I was discouraged from ever raising the issue. And I realized that even the law firms who were Jane’s clients had nowhere to go. They were being asked by the spouse of the chief justice for business worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and there was no one to complain to. Most of these firms were likely appearing or seeking to appear before the Supreme Court. It’s natural that they’d do anything they felt was necessary to be competitive.”
If you check the LinkedIn page of Mr. Price, you will find that he and Jane Roberts haven’t worked together in nearly a decade. You also see Price only lasted two years as a recruiter of elite legal talent (not just any talent, but diverse and LGBTQ+ in the Boston area, NTTAWWT). He then spent three years doing something before landing at his current position. None of that says “red hot talent scout.”
Price has shopped this same story twice, to the New York Times and Politico, and it had no legs because 1) there is no ethical violation, 2) taking a cheap shot at someone’s wife is somewhat frowned upon, and 3) the ProPublica story on Clarence Thomas hadn’t hit the fan.
The New York Times story helpfully points out that there is nothing illegal about Jane Roberts’ employment, but Price’s nebulous allegations could conceivably have a personal motive, “…Mr. Price was fired in 2013 and sued the firm, as well as Mrs. Roberts and another executive, over his dismissal.” Politico provides more detail, “Price’s suit against Major Lindsey was moved from a Massachusetts state court to an arbitrator, who eventually ruled against Price.”
Sorta funny that in recycling this crap, Business Insider elided over the fact that he was fired and had sued Jane Roberts, who I infer from the Politico story he accused of stealing his clients.
In 2014, Price sued Major Lindsey over his termination, alleging that the firm had not paid his commissions and that another colleague there had stolen his clients, according to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. Jane Roberts was named as a defendant in the case.
That could explain his fixation on Jane Roberts’ earnings.
The bottom line here is that not even the disgruntled whistleblower makes an allegation of misconduct. The New York Times article interviews two ethics experts. One finds it “troubling,” the other says so long as Jane Roberts complied with disclosure rules, there was nothing wrong.
Nothing is going to come of this. This is just a would-be Washington insider trying to use a current political kerfuffle to settle a score he was not able to settle in court. That said, it does add to the narrative of a corrupt conservative majority delegitimizing the Supreme Court. Now three conservative Supreme Court Justices, well, 2.5 as one is Roberts, have been accused of using their positions for financial gain. The sexual assault story against Justice Kavanaugh is getting a do-over. It is just a matter of time before Amy Coney Barrett and Samuel Alito get their turn.
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