A Direct Perspective on Samuel Alito
Most efforts at evaluating the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court have focused on parsing the Judge’s record (too often looking solely towards the outcomes of cases while ignoring the legal reasoning used). Anchor Rising was provided with an opportunity to approach the question of what kind of Justice Samuel Alito would be from another direction; we had the opportunity to put a few questions to a person who has worked with Judge Alito. Below is a short interview with Susan Sullivan, a former law clerk for Judge Alito (1990-1991), now a solo legal practitioner in San Francisco, CA.
Anchor Rising: We are interested in asking you a few questions about Judge Alito because, as a member of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, you have a resume that’s different from many of Judge Alito’s supporters. Do you believe that, as a Supreme Court justice, Samuel Alito would gave a fair hearing to the cases and arguments brought by organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU?
Susan Sullivan: As a self described social progressive, (a registered Democrat, a pro-choice feminist who supports gay marriage, opposes the death penalty and supports gun control), I am not afraid to have Sam Alito as a Justice on the Supreme Court. Having worked closely with him, I never saw his personal or political views dictate an outcome in a case and I do not believe him to be intent on advancing a conservative political agenda. If he were a conservative zealot there would not be the decisions he has made with so called “liberal” outcomes. There are cases with “pro-choice” outcomes; there are cases favoring plaintiffs bringing discrimination suits, cases that ruled in favor of criminal defendants, or expanded a woman’s rights to seek political asylum on the basis of gender. These are just not the results you would expect to see if he were a conservative ideologue.
AR: What would you say to your fellow liberals who oppose Judge Alito’s nomination because they don’t like the outcome of some of his decisions, regardless of the legal reasoning used?
SS: If George Bush had picked anyone other than Judge Alito, I would probably have the same response of suspicion, fear and distrust as many liberals have had to Judge Alito simply because he was selected by Bush. But because I worked closely with the Judge I do not believe he will reach results based on his own personal views. While, it does not sound very complimentary to say that we could do a lot worse, the reality is that with George Bush in charge, we really could do so much worse and end up with a real conservative ideologue and I find that to be really scary! That is in part why I have said that by opposing Judge Alito, we may be shooting ourselves in our own left foot. I cannot predict the future and there are no guarantees but I’m confident that Judge Alito will be fair and impartial, and that is more important me than having a political ideologue of any stripe on the Supreme Court.
Second, we ask juries and judges every day to not judge someone until after they have heard all the arguments and seen the evidence. Some groups have already declared their opposition to him. I think the better approach is to wait until after the hearings to reach a more informed judgment. So I would suggest we take a careful look over his entire fifteen year record. He heard over 2,000 cases and was involved in over 200 opinions.
AR: What kind of boss was Judge Alito?
SS: He is a really likable, modest guy who treats everyone with respect and courtesy. It was great to work with him. He’s really smart and he’s always open to argument. He’s a quiet and a private person. When a judge down the hall from Judge Alito redecorated her office and placed two rather elaborate stone lion sculptures outside her door, Judge Alito (though he won’t confess to it), placed two pink, plastic flamingoes outside his own door! A coffee shop down the road named a coffee after him “Bold Justice.” Perhaps if he makes it onto the Supreme Court, they’ll rename it “Bolder Justice.”
Hope that’s helpful. All I would ask is that people temper what they are hearing in the mainstream press. Keep in mind that if it is not ugly and sensational, frankly, the mainstream press does not seem interested in reporting it and there is so much at stake, we should give the Judge a fair hearing before reaching any judgment.