Admittedly, I haven't been following very closely the Alito nomination or that which was the Harriet Miers debacle. Before today, all I knew about both was that bloggers whose opinions I trust and respect were high on Alito, and much less so on Miers. Today, I read two pieces about the man that tell me all I need to know about the man, and convince me that he will be an excellent, thoughtful jurist.
This NYT piece demonstrates that Alito is careful about substituting his own judgment for that of the trial court's factfinder, and for that of the very participants in the case at issue. Since appellate judges are not to invade the province of the factfinder, this obviously sits well with me. It also sits well with me that when Alito dissented and the SCOTUS granted cert., Alito was usually right where his brethren were wrong.
Of course, that doesn't stop the NYT from from trying to make Alito out to be a neocon boogeyman:
In the several hundred cases he heard over 15 years on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Judge Alito dissented more than 60 times, often taking issue with decisions that sided with criminal defendants, prisoners and immigrants.
He frequently voted in favor of the government and corporations in these dissents. He generally deferred to what he called the good faith judgments of other participants in the justice system, including police officers, prosecutors, prison wardens, trial judges and juries. He appeared particularly reluctant to order new trials over what he called harmless errors in the presentation of evidence or in jury instructions.
To recap: he doesn't coddle criminals or prisoners, he favors punishing immigrants who commit crimes in this country, recognizes that the big, bad government and bigger, badder corporations have rights, and likes cops. And the NYT thinks this is bad? (Which is pretty much how I know it's good.)
The LA Times interviewed former Alito law clerks, all of whom are liberal or independent. They all love Alito, and found him to be conscientious in applying the law to the facts, regardless of the outcome. I love this quote from former clerk Kate Pringle:
"He was not, in my personal experience, an ideologue. He pays attention to the facts of cases and applies the law in a careful way. He is conservative in that sense; his opinions don't demonstrate an ideological slant," she said.
I also really liked this quote from former federal judge Timothy Lewis:
"Alito does not have an agenda, contrary to what the Republican right is saying about him being a 'home run.' He is not result-oriented. He is an honest conservative judge who believes in judicial restraint and judicial deference."
Both of these quotes give stunning insight into how left-leaning people, and very smart, legally-trained ones at that who should know better, view the role of judges. Judges aren't supposed to be idealogues. They are supposed to apply the law to the facts regardless of outcome. That Judge Alito is not an idealogue and is a careful jurist is what makes him a "home run." Apparently, a judge in this mold would certainly not be a "home run" for the Left.
To my mind, a judge "who believes in judicial restraint and judicial deference" is much more likely to read the Constitution and apply what it says, as opposed to applying those principles founded on "boy, I really wish the framers would have included this 'right' that I just made up, so I'll float some crap about penumbras or some such nonsense to get the outcome I like" jurisprudence that we've had so much of for the better part of three decades.