Alito blogging

In one of my (very) few forays into the very cool-looking but somewhat confusingly-laid-out Law School, I am watching a panel discussion on Alito's confirmation. Luckily, I get there early and snag a couple pieces of pizza - the room is packed, and it goes fast.

I'm also a bit confused - how to blog a panel that consists of six people, and not end up with a post that runs to multiple pages? Some of the most interesting legal minds of the university are here, and I'm sure they'll all have interesting things to say. So I'll try to be brief.

The first question is twofold: Should ideology or character be more important? What is your criteria for "judging the judges"?

Green goes first. "It doesn't matter what I think," she says, and says his confirmation will depend on his legal qualifications.

Schweber is leery of radicals who would overturn long-established precedent. Three conditios should be the Senate's power, radicalism, and certain personal beliefs. "Based on what I’ve seen so far, I think he should be [confirmed]… but I certainly would ask a lot of pointed questions."

"I kind of like radicals," says Downs. "In my opinion, the most important factor is judicial philosophy: it boils down to a judicial frame of mind – someone who’s not going to leap to conclusions... I also look for… the view of the role of the court in the political system." Alito "is very much bound by precedent. I predict that he’d be confirmed, and I’d say... he will be confirmed. If Dems want someone more to their liking, they need to start winning.” Touche.

Sharpless makes a joke - "I'm not a lawyer!" Then he goes on a bit of a rant. "One of the nice things about the longevity of the court is, it does free justices in theory from their political backgrounds." He says the process is a bit flawed: "The thing that bothers me is that we have to spend hours and hours listening to Ted Kennedy, who, last I checked, cheated his way through law school [and hearing very little from the judges]." He calls out Souter's immanent emanent (fixed on update) domain decision for very liberal reasons, too.

It comes to Althouse, and she seems a bit taken aback after Sharpless's rant - "um." If you read her blog, you probably know what she'll say: Dems "make law political. When that happens, when there is a liberal court, won’t believe that what the court does is law." She says the Dems need to talk about broader legal philosophy.

"The possibility of taking politics out of the confirmation process is doomed from the beginning," says Church. Politics should be brought in if a judge's decision could affect hot-button political issues. "The system has become too partisan," he says.

Now another two-parter: has the appointment process become too political? How has the failed Miers nomination affected Alito's chances?

Church is up again, and reiterates his point that the process - and the parties - are too partisan. He blames it on "well-funded interest groups". The Dems run too much risk of being obstructinist.

Althouse says, "Roberts was the perfect candidate. He was like the judge from central casting." She then lays out how clever a move politically the Alito nomination was: "Picking someone in that un-political way is the best political move."

Sharpless says he was troubled by the Miers nomination because of the lessons presidents will learn from it: "I think it’s going to continue this tradition... to choose appellate lawyers who’ve been federal prosecutors. I think that leads to a very narrow judicial mindset."

Downs says the message is "don't pick an intellectual" - but that it goes back to Bork, not just Miers. He derails the conversation by bringing up Lincoln's depression and bipolar condition - which leads others to point out that he was also gay. Suddenly there's a question of Nietzsche’s sexuality! But suddenly we get back to the point: Downs says that due to a lack of "sufficient underlying agreement" on American values, people can't agree on the court.

Schweber calls out an interesting Republican tactic - the "Southernization" of politics: Republicans pass "blatantly unconstitional" abortion laws, so that the courts strike them down, and the Republicans then promise their base that if elected, they'll get "good laws" passed. Interesting. He also brings up the idea - one that I share - that Miers was set up to fail, so that Alito would have an easier time.

Green follows up on that conspiracy theory. "I think Alito will stand more on his own."

And that be all. I'm not going to blog the questions, as this beast has gotten too long already.

Update: Welcome Althousians! Feel free to take a poke around - the world of UW-Madison is wild and wacky indeed.