The American Bar Association—a liberal organization—conducted an extensive investigation of Judge Samuel Alito’s career as a lawyer and judge and unanimously gave him its highest rating of “well qualified” to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ABA interviewed 300 people, including 130 federal judges and numerous lawyers who had argued both winning and losing cases in Alito’s court. It also examined the purported controversies about Alito’s failure to recuse himself from a case involving the Vanguard company, which managed mutual funds he owned shares in (see Sen. Orrin Hatch’s piece on the cover), and his membership in the defunct Concerned Alumni of Princeton, which Alito mentioned in a 1985 Justice Department job application.
Taking into full consideration both the Vanguard case and, as the ABA put it, Alito’s “membership in a group that was perceived in the media to have been formed to exclude diversity on the Princeton campus,” the ABA determined that Alito had demonstrated “the highest standards of integrity.”
“Concerns have been raised and reviewed in detail,” said the ABA’s report to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “None of those concerns rises to the level that overrides what the nominee has demonstrated in a decade and a half of public service on the federal bench. To the contrary, Judge Alito’s integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament are of the highest standing.”
Nonetheless, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D.-Mass.) used much of his time during the hearings to badger Judge Alito on the Vanguard case and his membership in CAP, suggesting the judge was somehow unethical or bigoted.
HUMAN EVENTS Assistant Editor Amanda Carpenter caught up with Senate Judiciary Committee members and Rep. Trent Franks (R.-Ariz.), who was on the Hill watching the hearings ufold, to ask if they thought Kennedy had higher ethical standards than the ABA.
Do you think that Democratic senators, especially Sen. Kennedy, have a right to require a higher standard of integrity than the ABA?
SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R.-KAN.): No, in a short answer. No. 2, I don’t think he’s even considered the ABA’s review of ethical and integrity issues. … Again, it’s going after character assassination, which is inappropriate, and I’m sure for a guy like Alito who is pretty shy and is deeply concerned about his integrity, this is a disconcerting line of questioning. He’s tried to maintain not just an integrity that’s required, but more than what is required, and I think it’s an unfortunate line of questioning.
The ABA reviewed the Vanguard case and CAP extensively, and yet we’ve seen Sen. Kennedy push it continually. Do you think he has a higher ethical standard than the ABA?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D.-CALIF.): That’s not the issue. The issue is that there are some papers that are in the congressional library that Sen. Kennedy wants to see, and I think everybody should have the right to have access to whatever it is they need. [Editor’s Note: Shortly after Sen. Feinstein made these remarks, former National Review Publisher Bill Rusher, who was a founder of CAP, agreed to a request from the committee to review the CAP papers, which are under Rusher’s control, but are deposited in the Library of Congress. Committee staff combed through the papers. The next day, Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) announced: “The files contain dozens of articles, including investigative exposes written at the height of the organization’s prominence, but Sam Alito’s name is nowhere to be found in any of them.”]
The ABA has reviewed the Vanguard case, and they concluded Alito is a man of excellent integrity. Yet, Sen. Kennedy is pushing it continually. Do you think he has a higher ethical standard than the ABA?
REP. TRENT FRANKS (R.-ARIZ.): I don’t think any comment I could make would really change people’s comparisons. I think that’s one I feel really safe in leaving in the minds of people. Ironically, from what I understand of his membership, the primary reason for his involvement was because of ROTC. To suggest that this man is somehow racist, that goes to attack someone’s heart, and that’s probably the greatest disappointment I have in politics.
Unfortunately, it’s not become a debate between two perspectives of the truth. It’s become a debate between those who have some respect for the truth and those who are simply unrestrained by it entirely. That’s a sad thing. It really is a genuine disappointment because it speaks ill of the government. Nobody knows exactly all the truth, but at least that should be our common goal: to arrive at what is true and what is good because to somehow pretend that the truth doesn’t exist and that it is indeed not relevant is to send us all into a philosophical twilight zone.
Do you believe that other senators, such as Sen. Kennedy, have the right to implement a higher standard of integrity than the ABA?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R.-S.C.): I think that a senator can do almost anything—and that’s what makes us dangerous.
Sen. Kennedy is pushing this Vanguard case? Do you think he has a higher ethical standard than the ABA?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R.-UTAH): Who, Sen. Kennedy?
HATCH: Well I’m sure, I’m sure he thinks he does. I’ll leave it at that.
SEN. TEDDY KENNEDY (D.-MASS.): I’m going the other way.
I wanted to get a reaction from you—
KENNEDY: I’ve done what I’m going to do in there.
Now, the ABA has reviewed these cases extensively, are you wanting a higher ethical standard—
KENNEDY: The, this is, is we’re going to have to, I’m just done. I’ve answered questions in here. I’m getting, go ahead and give her [gestures to an aide who steps in] an answer.
Now, the ABA, we all know, has reviewed these records extensively with CAP and Vanguard which he [Kennedy] is pushing. Does he want a higher standard than the ABA?
KENNEDY AIDE: The ABA, he’s addressed that and you’re saying the ABA has reviewed the Rusher documents?
Well, many of the documents. Can you explain to me why that’s not a good enough standard?
KENNEDY AIDE: The ABA looks at different things, not up to standards. This is the highest bar possible for the United States Supreme Court.
Ok. What’s your name?
KENNEDY AIDE: I’m not supposed to be quoted.
You’re his press person, you’re going to answer statements and you’re not going to be quoted?
KENNEDY AIDE: I can point you to where he addressed that—
Can I quote you as an aide?
KENNEDY AIDE: Sure.
KENNEDY AIDE: Who do you work for?
KENNEDY AIDE: That’s what I thought. Okay.
The ABA has reviewed the Vanguard case and concluded that Judge Alito has “excellent integrity.” Yet, Sen. Kennedy continues to press this issue. Do you think that he has a higher standard, ethical standard than the ABA?
SEN. JON KYL (R.-ARIZ.): I like the way you put the question. No. In a word. This whole Vanguard case is a phony, phony issue. What Kennedy said is: “What is the proper period of time?” Almost all judges who go onto the court have been practicing law somewhere. They will almost always for a period of time, and there’s no set rule for how long it is, not hear cases that come before them from their friends, for example, or from their old law firm and so forth, or their old clients. After awhile, after they’ve been on the court, for usually a matter of years, they will relax that rule because it’s not fair to their colleagues to always recuse themselves from cases and it’s not fair as the personnel of law firms change and so on. So they gradually begin hearing cases that may even involve their old clients. But it’s after they’ve been on the court and have clearly severed their ties that they had in the practice of law.
In regards to financial matters however, there’s never any time period, and the judge was very careful to make the point he was not using that time period with respect to Vanguard. It was irrelevant. [His involvement in the case] did not involve any kind of unethical behavior as the American Bar Association agreed. But out of an abundance of caution, when the people in the case wanted him recused anyway, he said, “OK.” And the case came out the same way anyway. So, it is literally a matter that is being misportrayed in the questioning by Sen. Kennedy in my opinion.