Alito's Former (Liberal) Clerks: He's No Ideologue

Judge Samuel Alito won’t let his political leanings get in the way of his judgments, according to his former clerks.

Twenty-one of Alito’s former law clerks gathered in Washington, D.C., this week to declare their unanimous support for their former boss, who is awaiting confirmation as the newest U.S. Supreme Court justice.
Spanning the political spectrum in terms of party affiliations and public policy opinions, the group addressed reporters at a press conference before delivering a petition signed by 51 former Alito law clerks to encourage leaders of the U.S. Senate to confirm Alito without delay.

The petition was specifically addressed to Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.), Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Patrick Leahy (Vt.).

The former clerks said they were “overjoyed” after hearing of the nomination and had nothing but praise for the judge, who they say has never let politics influence his judicial decisions.

Jack White flew 3,000 miles from San Francisco to show his support due to what he says is his “sincere affection and respect” for Alito.
Hannah Smith, who clerked for Alito from 2001-02 and later for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, said Alito, like Thomas, “recognizes judges role in law should be a restrained one.”
Alito approaches each case with great care, recognizing the outcome has an impact on real people, she said, describing him as a “true gentleman of unassuming brilliance.”
Monica Dolin said she supports Alito even though she considers herself a staunch Democrat. During her time as his clerk from 1993-94, Dolin said she never saw any evidence that indicated the judge was politically conservative. According to Dolin, Alito cares deeply about justice, not about which side of the party line his rulings will fall.
Dismissing comparisons of Alito to Supreme Court Justice Scalia, Dolin said Alito doesn’t resemble any of the current justices on the Supreme Court, but resembles instead former Justice John Marshall Harlan.
David Loretto, a self-described “super-liberal” who clerked for Alito in 2002-03, said he had friends approach him following the news coverage of Alito’s nomination who said they had never realized that he worked for such a conservative judge.
His response: “Neither did I.”

The former clerks agreed that Alito’s political views were never a factor in his rulings, nor were they a part of his hiring criteria.

“We collectively were involved in thousands of cases, and it never once appeared to use that Judge Alito had pre-judged a case or ruled based on political ideology,” they wrote in the petition. “To the contrary, Judge Alito meticulously and diligently applied controlling legal authority to the facts of each case after full and careful consideration of all relevant legal arguments.”
The group also wrote that Alito was guided at all times by “his profound respect for the Constitution and the limited role of the judicial branch.”
Jay Jorgensen, a clerk for Alito in 1997-98, said Alito hired his clerks based on merit, not on their political leanings, which were never discussed. He also said Alito never accepted the first recommendations of his clerks, insisting that both sides of each case be examined carefully and weighed evenly.
Even with three to four clerks at a time at his side, Alito took much of the workload burden upon himself, wrote his own opinions and took each case “very seriously,” said Tom Gentile, one of Alito’s clerks in 1996-97.

Rick Beckner, who clerked for the judge from 1994-95, said that Alito, as “one of the foremost experts on criminal law,” could read through a case and immediately afterwards articulate beautiful a five or six page opinion, “something that would take others a month at least.”