Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Yale Law School and its loyal alumnus

This NYT article offers us a range of opinions from Yale Law School, Judge Samuel Alito’s alma mater. The range is, of course, narrow. According to Professor Peter H. Schuck, a self-described moderate:

"The politics of Yale Law School and the other elite law schools is 95 percent left and 5 percent other." He said he counted perhaps four conservative professors on a faculty of about 70.

Another faculty member, Robert W. Gordon, observed:

"Alito is a careful carpenter. The things are well built, but they are not beautiful. Alito in my judgment is just too steadfastly conservative."


Bruce Ackerman, whose most recent book is The Failure of the Founding Fathers (discussed here), described Alito as a "judicial radical." For a clue as to what Ackerman means, see this: a judicial radical is someone who agrees with Scalia and Thomas, the most recent YLS-connected nominee.

Indeed, if, as the article suggests, many Yale students and faculty are "cautiously hostile," regarding Alito as betraying the school’s "liberal values," we can expect Yale lawyers for the most part to line up against Alito, somewhat as they did in the case of Clarence Thomas (see here). Indeed, according to the article (and this one as well), Justice Thomas told an audience at a well-known Ohio public affairs center that:

"Yale was fine. I have some fundamental disagreements with Yale Law School subsequent to that. I don’t consider myself particularly close to Yale Law School, but that is not because of the way I was treated when I attended Yale Law School."

And if their objections to Alito are as weakly grounded as they seem to be (aesthetic and ideological), then we might be concerned that rather wild charges will again be cast about in a vain effort to derail the nomination. Alito has been a loyal alumnus, not missing a five year reunion until this year, when his excuse had soemthing to do with preparing for confirmation hearings. After January, will he share Clarence Thomas’ bitterness? Let’s hope not.

Update: Rick Garnett has more, with links. The bottom line on all this is that "Yale Law School" (if it’s permissible tospeak in this way about an institution that clearly doesn’t embody much diversity of political viewpoint) does itself no favors by opposing an alumnus--or anyone else--on essentially ideological grounds.

The only remaining oddity of the article is its failure to mention or to quote Stephen L. Carter, who I most recently mentioned here. Carter has actually written a book entitled The Confirmation Mess: Cleaning Up the Federal Appointments Process. Perhaps Carter didn’t fit the storyline well enough, since his focus is largely on qualifications, which Alito has in spades.

Discussions - 3 Comments

Justice Thomas’ bitterness toward Yale Law strikes me as wholly appropriate --the honest response of an honest man. How will things change in this country unless we have more of this?

Well the NYT did say they were unable to reach Judith Miller for a comment after her unfortuate, ahem, firing, but the NY Post had no problem. So I would guess if you asked Mr. Liptak he would either say Carter was "unavailable" or dodge and ask something like "did you expect me to interview the whole faculty?" Sadly he probably did capture the vast majority’s sentiments, even in the law school. Where is the much vaunted diversity?

is a socialist. Anyone who doubts this should read his communist manifesto "The Stakeholder Society." It’s a shame the New York Times doesn’t mention that in its article. It would really put some of these criticisms in perspective.

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