Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Ah, Confirmation Hearings
More seriously, Betsy Newmark has dug up a fascinating discussion of Sam Alito from a former law clerk. Conor Dugan writes:
Much popular thinking about the judicial function holds that the judiciary is just another extension of politics. In this view, a judge ought to attempt to sort out political disputes and to bring to bear his or her personal policy preferences on the law.We're free to guess that those who have this understanding of a judge's role are projecting how they would behave onto someone else. I have a female bulldog mix, and when I am putting away food from dinner she is apt to rush into the kitchen and stare at me intensely. The female dog will steal food from the male dog. My male dog doesn't do this - in fact, he won't even accept food unless the female dog is offered a share at the same time.
For instance, the Washington Post, in an analysis of Judge Alito's work on the bench, described him as " highly sympathetic to prosecutors (and) skeptical of immigrants trying to avoid
deportation," as if his decisions in these cases indicated his personal preferences. These accounts of Judge Alito's record never ask what the law required in a particular case but, rather, focus on the results of his decisions.
Such characterizations also assume Judge Alito personally supports the underlying policy of the law at issue and conclude that his decisions skew in the direction of his personal preferences.
...this understanding of what a judge is and does is profoundly misguided. Judge Alito taught me that the starting point in any case must be what the law requires. Judge Alito showed me and my fellow clerks that a judge is to put personal ideology aside and ascertain the meaning of the law -- not the meaning he or she wants.
So naturally my conniving bulldog assumes that if I can get away with it I'll just gobble up all the remains of the roast beef. Just as naturally, the male dog assumes I won't. People are no different.
Or most depressing depending on how you want to look at it, but the entertainment value is unequaled.
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