The Right Coast

November 12, 2005
Yale Law School on Alito nomination
By Tom Smith

At least Peter Schuck doesn't sound like a ninny. But then there is this:

Prof. Robert W. Gordon, who teaches legal history, said he had read all of Judge Alito's 15 years of opinions. "Alito is a careful carpenter," Professor Gordon said. "The things are well built, but they are not beautiful. Alito in my judgment is just too steadfastly conservative."

And in my judgment, Professor Gordon is just too steadfastly pompous. Alito, a mere craftsman, adorned with canvas apron and work belt, labors at nailing together his workmanlike, really quite good for a person of so, so practical a bent, but really, not quite the thing when we should be soaring to the jurisprudential stars on the wings of self-satisfied eagles. Pardon me while I throw up.

Tony Kronman opines:

"Sadly," said Professor Kronman, the former dean, "relations between Justice Thomas and the law school have not been as warm and cordial as I would wish them to be."

He added: "The confirmation process left a residue of discomfort that has never completely drained, though I think it is dissipating. I believe that he felt, with whatever justification, that the school did not come out as strongly and consistently and institutionally in support of his nomination as he would have wished."

You think?

The most preposterous thing is that anyone should think the faculty of the Yale Law School is particularly qualified to judge whether Alito would make a good Supreme Court Justice or not. Whether they intended to or not, their (for those who spoke seemed to speak for Yale) disgraceful behavior in both the Bork and Thomas nominations makes it obvious that they are just carrying water for the political left. I suppose someone has to do it, but it ain't law.

There are exceptions, to be sure, and thank heaven. But "Professor, Yale Law School" after somebody's name should now create a presumption that what you are about to hear is anything but an unbiased assessment of a nominee's qualfications to be a Supreme Court Justice. For my small part, doubting I rise even to the level of carpenter of ugly objects, I think this is an abuse of the something like fiduciary duty that a professor owes the institution that pays him, the prestige of which puts weight, however misdirected, behind his opinions. Who exactly is Professor Gordon speaking for in dissing Alito? For Yale? for America? for the people who voted for George Bush? Too "steadfastly conservative" for whom? If it is for Yale, well, I think Yale already spent its prestige, or some people spent its prestige for it, sabotaging Bork's nomination and trying to do the same to Thomas, but failing because of their confusion in deciding whether it was OK to lie about a Black man, having already settled with Bork that it was OK to lie about a faculty colleague. When Yale Law School professors speak out against a nominee, it no longer means that a nominee is not qualified; only the least sophisticated could think that. It just means the nominee has views the left wing of the legal academy disapproves of, which in the view of many, including this sawdust sweeper, counts as a qualification in its own right. The question is, is it in the long term interests of Yale to build this, uh, narrow reputation? I doubt it, whatever that revered judge of legal institutions, the US News and World Report, may say.

And if you want a carpenter to make something beautiful, you should give him better material to work with than the Family Medical Leave Act.