Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Alito Not a Judicial Cartoon

The Wikipedia profile of newly-sworn Associate Justice Sam Alito contains two bits of interesting information:
At Princeton, Alito led a student conference in 1971 called "The Boundaries of Privacy in American Society" which, among other things, supported curbs on domestic intelligence gathering, called for the legalization of sodomy, and urged for an end to discrimination against homosexuals in hiring by employers (see [1]). During the conference, Alito stated that "no private sexual act between consenting adults should be forbidden."

Alito was a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, which formed in October 1972 against Princeton's decisions regarding affirmative action. Apart from Alito's written 1985 statement of membership of CAP on a job application, which Alito says was truthful, there is no other evidence of Alito's involvement with or contributions in the group. Alito has cited the banning and subsequent mistreatment of ROTC by the university for belonging to CAP.
It would seem that Alito's judicial philosophy, even as a young person, was more complicated and nuanced than either his advocates or adversaries have shown. (Thanks to Dave Friedman for linking to this piece.)

2 comments:

Dave said...

You're welcome.

I agree regarding the picture painted of Alito by both his enemies and adversaries.

Obviously a person's position can change over time, but I also think there is something to the idea that a person has a general moral framework that develops while a young adult, and, barring some catastrophic event, does not change much over the intervening years.

Mark Daniels said...

Dave:
I believe that people can and do change. (I couldn't be in my line of work if I didn't believe that.) But I think that what we see in the young Alito anyway, is an impulse toward more nuanced thinking. The only reason that this becomes relevant is that so much was made of his name being on the roster of CAP; but that wasn't the only cause to which he lent his name in those days.

It may be that Alito's views on all these subjects have changed dramatically in the ensuing years. (I know that my views on everything from God to politics have undergone changes since graduating from Ohio State thirty-one years ago!) But to pick isolated facts to create a cartoon of someone who even Democratic lawyers and judges agree is a fair-minded jurist, was wrong. I'm glad that the strategy didn't work.

There were, it seems to me, more substantive issues that the members of the Judiciary Committee could have raised with Alito. But we live in an era in which pols can't resist emblematic, sound bites...or what they suspect are emblematic, sound bite issues.

Anyway, thanks for linking to the Wikipedia article.

Thanks for dropping by the blog and for your comment!

Mark