Friday, January 13, 2006

Alito Hearings the Final Day

I had an opportunity to catch more bits and pieces of the Alito hearing today.  Needless to say there wasn’t much to learn.  The panelists that supported Alito only seemed to do so because he was a real swell guy with tons of integrity.  The witnesses that opposed the confirmation only appeared to do so because they felt they had him figured out and knew that he would rule in ways that they opposed.  

In addition to thinking that Alito came to the table with an agenda, that agenda was so heinous as to include stripping rights away from everyone and expanding the powers of government to something that even the courts themselves couldn’t question.

There was a single exception to this grand farce of ass kissing and hyperbole – Professor Ronald Sullivan from Yale Law.  Professor Sullivan came to the committee to talk about Alito’s Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.  Sullivan didn’t use hyperbole to make a case that the sky was falling, but set his arguments out in a clear concise manner that, to my ears, was very persuasive.

His argument was that Alito has a pattern of showing great deference to government that goes beyond biases that may appear as a result of a judicial philosophy but actually reveal an inconsistent method for interpreting law.  Alito appeared to interpret statutory cases very strictly when it restricts a plaintiffs power against government, but very wide interpretations when it expands government power.

I wouldn’t know where to even begin in deciphering legal opinions, so I’m not going to weigh in on whether or not Professor Sullivan’s charges have any merit, but I think the question is one that should be answered – does Alito grant too much preference to government power in criminal cases?

Unfortunately, the political nature of the confirmation process and the need to tap dance around the issue of Roe preclude any chance that there is a substantive debate about what qualities we desire in a judge.  Should judges defer to the executive or legislative branches?  Where should the line be drawn?  As long as Republicans only care whether or not judges appear to dislike Roe and Democrats scream bloody murder these discussions will never occur.

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