January 3, 2006

Explaining the Solicitor General's office, defending Alito.

Lawprof Charles Fried has an op-ed on Samuel Alito in today's NYT, looking at the way Alito's opponents have used memoranda he wrote as a junior lawyer in the office of the Solicitor General. Fried, who was Solicitor General from 1985 to 1989, writes:
These were not the writings of a political operative seeking to make trouble or advance an agenda. The solicitor general takes a case to the Supreme Court only when some other part of the government - perhaps a division of the Department of Justice or another agency - recommends it.
As a junior staff member, Alito received assignments, including one dealing with abortion and another with wiretapping:
What is remarkable in both cases is that Judge Alito recommended against taking the position that more senior, politically appointed officials were urging the solicitor general to take before the court.
I'm not going to excerpt from the rest of the piece, because it's so pithy that you ought to read every word. Fried makes his point with the great clarity you'd expect from a Solicitor General: if you understand the context of the cases and the way the Solicitor General's office works, you can see that Alito is "a careful lawyer with the professionalism to give legally sound but unwelcome advice" and "a person who can tell the difference between the law and his own political predilections."


Charles said...

I fail to see how things you wrote for your boss years ago can be taken as accurate reflections of your personal views. They might, of course. But when starting out we all get assignments to research and present things to the boss according to certain criteria. We might agree, and might not, but that sort of writing can only be judged on the professionalism of the research based on the assignment - take position A and convince me to do that while this other person takes position B. In this case, make sure it follows applicable laws, rules, regulations, professional standards. This is on the order of looking at high school English papers and figuring out if the person can write.

PDS said...

Notwithstanding a realistic acknowledgment of the astronomical odds against being nominated, there was once a day where I harbored fantasies about being a federal judge. There is no way I would go through what these guys are going through, even at the district court level of the game. I don't claim that this is some great loss to the judiciary, but cite it only as an example of what most be happening to the truly talented and remarkable types who would be in the pool for circuit court and SCOTUS positions. Anybody who doesn't think this "process" is hurting the judiciary is fooling themselves.

vbspurs said...

Hmm. I liked your post-reply there, PDS.

Rarely do we as commenters get to praise each other's comments, but I just thought I might chance one now.

P.S.: This is why people don't enter politics, or want to rise to the highest levels of their professions. OTOH, it roots out the truly dilettante.