Judge Alito: A clerk’s eye view

A reader directs us to this interesting article from yesterday’s Los Angeles Times by David Savage and Henry Weinstein: “Nominee has some unexpected supporters.” The article is built around the testimony of former law clerks of Judge Alito; insofar as the article is concerned, these former clerks are all liberal or independent. Take, for example, Kate Pringle and Jeff Wasserstein:

Kate Pringle, a New York lawyer who worked last year on Sen. John F. Kerry’s presidential campaign, describes herself as a left-leaning Democrat and a big fan of Alito’s.

She worked for him as a law clerk in 1994, and said she was troubled by the initial reaction to his nomination. “He was not, in my personal experience, an ideologue. He pays attention to the facts of cases and applies the law in a careful way. He is conservative in that sense; his opinions don’t demonstrate an ideological slant,” she said.

Jeff Wasserstein, a Washington lawyer who clerked for Alito in 1998, echoes her view.

“I am a Democrat who always voted Democratic, except when I vote for a Green candidate — but Judge Alito was not interested in the ideology of his clerks,” he said. “He didn’t decide cases based on ideology, and his record was not extremely conservative.”

As an example, he cited a case in which police in Pennsylvania sent out a bulletin that called for the arrest of a black man in a black sports car. Police stopped such a vehicle and found a gun, but Alito voted to overturn the man’s conviction, saying that that general identification did not amount to probable cause.

“This was a classic case of ‘driving while black,'” Wasserstein said, referring to the complaint that black motorists are targeted by police. Though Alito “was a former prosecutor, he was very fair and open-minded in looking at cases and applying the law,” Wasserstein said.

The article also includes interesting comments from Judge Alito’s judicial colleagues and former law school classmates. Kudos to the Times for this terrific piece of reporting.

UPDATE: Jacob Liebenluft’s Yale Daily News article supplements the Times article with the views of Judge Alito’s Yale Law School classmates: “Alito was quiet scholar.”


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