11/02/2005: Reason to relax? Or devious liberal media conspiracy?
WASHINGTON — Samuel A. Alito Jr. was quickly branded a hard-core conservative after President Bush announced his nomination, but a surprising number of liberal-leaning judges and ex-clerks say they support his elevation to the Supreme Court.Almost enough to make the conspiracy theorist in me wonder if this is an attempt to poison Alito's nomination by painting him as a likely "turncoat" who won't obey his Religious Reich marching orders once he's sworn in.... :-)
Those who have worked alongside him say he was neither an ideologue nor a judge with an agenda, conservative or otherwise. They caution against attaching a label to Alito.
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."
It is not unusual for former law clerks to have fond recollections of the judge they worked for. And it is common for judges to speak respectfully of their colleagues. But for a judge being portrayed by the right and left as a hard-right conservative, Alito's enthusiastic backing by liberal associates is striking.
Former federal Judge Timothy K. Lewis said that when he joined the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in 1992, he consulted his mentor, Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. The late Higginbotham, a legendary liberal and a scholar of U.S. racial history, was the only other black judge on the Philadelphia-based court at the time.
"As he was going down the roster of colleagues, he got to Sam Alito. I expressed some concern about [him] being so conservative. He said, 'No, no. Sam Alito is my favorite judge to sit with on this court. He is a wonderful judge and a terrific human being. Sam Alito is my kind of conservative. He is intellectually honest. He doesn't have an agenda. He is not an ideologue,' " Higginbotham said, according to Lewis.
"I really was surprised to hear that, but my experience with him on the 3rd Circuit bore that out," added Lewis, who had a liberal record during his seven years on the bench. "Alito does not have an agenda, contrary to what the Republican right is saying about him being a 'home run.' He is not result-oriented. He is an honest conservative judge who believes in judicial restraint and judicial deference."
God, I hate living in "interesting times"....
Len on 11.02.05 @ 03:00 PM CST