Archive for May 24th, 2011

Defensive Justice: Inside the mind of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito

| May 24, 2011 | 4 Replies
Defensive Justice: Inside the mind of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito

On Monday, May 16, 2011, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Samuel A. Alito spoke at a function sponsored by the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis. I attended because I was curious about his thought process; what was going on in his mind? I had no idea what Justice Alito was going to discuss until he began to speak. I recorded his speech on a small recorder and I took some notes.

Alito is part of a Supreme Court majority that has repeatedly written opinions that have wrested power from average citizens at the expense of powerful corporations. Yet Justice Alito began his talk by proudly reciting an inscription on the walls of the United States Supreme Court: “Equal Access to the Law.” That’s a strange line to recite by a judge who has voted to bar ordinary citizens from having meaningful access to courthouses (see AT&T v Concepcion) and barred them from having meaning access to democracy itself by unleashing an ocean of money into the electoral process (see Citizens United and see here).

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Alito titled his talk “The Top 10 Things You Might Not Know about the United States Supreme Court.” Because Alito is often touted as an “intellectual,” I assumed that the talk might be intellectually challenging, but it was a self-absorbed and disingenuous talk delivered in a humorless tone. Alito’s talk was also highly defensive, as described below.  His talk was especially disappointing in light of Alito’s claim that he has given this same talk to other audiences on many other occasions. That would presumably would have given him the opportunity to hone some inspirational messages into his talk, but I felt no inspiration.  Feel free to disagree with me after listening to Alito’s entire speech here. Without further ado, here are Samuel Alito’s “top ten things” along with my reactions to these “things.”

Topic one: “Most cases are not about the Constitution.”

I never assumed otherwise, and I suspect that most audience members (all most all of them practicing attorneys) never assumed otherwise. It was curious is that Alito mentioned Brown versus Board of Education as one of the great cases coming out of the United States Supreme Court. Brown was a case in which the court was looking out for the little guy, something the current court has not shown much interest in doing. Therefore, one might wonder how the majority on this court would have reacted in such a case had this majority been sitting on the bench back in 1954. If this sounds harsh, give me one reason to think otherwise. Brown pitted the Court against legislators; it was inconvenient decision for those in power. It was a decision driven by a desire for “social justice,” an alien concept for the current court.

Topic two: “Most cases are governed by precedent.”

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Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren fights off the shills for the banking industry

| May 24, 2011 | 1 Reply
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren fights off the shills for the banking industry

Elizabeth Warren was required to work overtime to fight off massive doses of ignorance and hostility delivered by well-paid shills for the banking industry posing as representatives of the People.

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Members of Congress are damned smart investors

| May 24, 2011 | 1 Reply
Members of Congress are damned smart investors

Or maybe not. Dan Froomkin reports on recent findings by university researchers who found that representatives beat the market by 6 percent while senators beat the market by 10 percent:

What’s their secret? The report speculates, but does not conclude, it could have something to do with the ability members of Congress have to trade on non-public information or to vote their own pocketbooks — or both.

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