Law Schools and Leftist Orthodoxy
The nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court of an identifiably conservative figure tends to set off a flurry of noisy opposition from the ranks of legal academia, and that of Judge Samuel Alito in 2005 was no exception. Rallies were set up, petitions circulated, and more than 500 law professors signed a letter urging the nominee’s defeat. A particular hotbed of opposition emerged at Yale, where faculty organized something they called the Alito Project to furnish the nomination’s opponents with ammunition. There was a bit of a human-interest angle on this last, because Alito, a 15-year veteran of the Third Circuit who had garnered the American Bar Association’s highest recommendation, was himself a Yale Law graduate. For that matter, an earlier Court nominee who had also drawn frenetic opposition at Yale Law School, Clarence Thomas, had been a Yale grad, too.
On many campuses, a running campaign against the Supreme Court nominations of the institution’s own alumni would have been considered an unthinkable lapse of school spirit. Not in New Haven, though. You might even say that by leading the charge against ideological turncoats and traitors, the professors were embodying Yale’s own special kind of school spirit. The U.S. Senate, in any event, proceeded to ignore the profs’ efforts, confirming Alito by a 58–42 margin, as it had earlier confirmed Thomas 52–48.
About the Author
Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of The Litigation Explosion and other books. His online work includes overlawyered.com, the oldest blog on law. This is adapted from his new book, Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America, published this month by Encounter.