Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Alito on Bush v. Gore...

So, while it probably wasn't the most important answer that Alito gave during his confirmation hearings, one of the answers he gave that particularly bothered me was in reference to Bush v. Gore:

KOHL: So, Judge Alito, I'd like to ask you: Was the Supreme Court correct to take this case in the first place?

ALITO: Well, Senator, I think you're probably right, and I hope you're right, that, that sort of issue doesn't come before the Supreme Court again.

Some of the equal protection ground that the majority relied on in Bush v. Gore does involve principles that could come up in future elections and in future cases.

As to that particular case, my answer has to be, I really don't know. I have not studied it in the way I would study a case that comes before me as a judge. And I would have to go through the whole judicial process.

KOHL: That was a huge, huge case.

And I would like to hope and I would bet that you thought about it an awful lot, because you are who you are...

ALITO: Well, there's the issue of whether they should take it and the issue of how it should be decided.

And, Senator, my honest answer is I have not studied it in the way that I would study the issue if it were to come before me as a judge.

And that would require putting out of my mind any personal thoughts that I had on the matter and listening to all of the arguments and reading the briefs and thinking about it in the way that I do when I decide legal issues that are before me as a judge...

The manner in which a judge studies a case, as defined by Alito, sounds to me to also be an apt description of the role of a law professor, which Alito was at Seton Hall. He taught Con Law I & II (both before the Bush v. Gore decision was handed down), and later in '03 and '04 taught courses on terrorism and civil liberties. He also judged several Moot Court competitions.

Now, from this information, I don't know if any of these later activities required a professor with a deep knowledge of the Equal Protection Clause. But, as I recall, the Bush v. Gore decision is a vital part of modern Equal Protection Clause doctrine... I spent at least a month trying to read and understand that freakin' thing, and I don't think I ever did understand it completely. What I do know is that if I, as a hypothetical law student, ever received a poor grade from Professor Alito on anything regarding the Equal Protection Clause from December, 2000 on, I'd be calling the Seton Hall registrar or whoever and demanding a refund of my tuition for those classes.

Of course, my guess is that Alito has indeed studied Bush v. Gore and has very well-defined opinions about this case, and that he was just being evasive here. But his answer was reminiscent of Clarence Thomas' laughable answers on Roe v. Wade during his confirmation hearings in 1991.

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