While Yale Law School may have a predominantly liberal image, several faculty members said there is no consensus in the school regarding Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito’s confirmation bid, despite a recent New York Times article that reported a coordinated effort at the Law School to defeat the conservative nominee.
Law professor Robert Gordon said he found the Times article “misleading” in implying that the Law School faculty has a unified stance toward the candidate. Gordon said he expects the faculty to be conflicted on whether to support the nomination.
“Many people hold the view that simply disagreeing is not sufficient ground for opposition,” Gordon said. “Other people believe the president is likely to nominate someone worse if he is defeated, and therefore he should not be opposed for that reason; and others believe that Alito’s opinions, while conservative, are not so extreme as to disqualify him.”
According to the Times article, most professors expressed a “hostile” attitude toward Alito, whose “jurisprudence represented a betrayal of the law school’s liberal values.”
But professor Anthony Kronman, the Law School’s former dean, said he felt Alito falls within the range of permissible variation in the spectrum of political outlook, and he called for a restoration of “measure and posture” in the confirmation process.
“The confirmation of Supreme Court justices is a process that, in my judgement, has gone badly awry,” Kronman said. “I think the country needs to find a way to restore the process to a more sensible posture, and I hope that Judge Alito’s confirmation will help to restore a measure of thoughtfulness and civility to the process.”
Professor Peter Schuck, who said he thinks the Law School should consider constitutional soundness above loyalty, said he thinks discourse about Alito on campus has been civil.
“The professors here are no more than people who feel very strongly about what they take as principal concerns about the nomination,” Schuck said. “They’re voicing them energetically; there’s nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, what’s pernicious in my view is treating alumni in public debate with contempt or disrespect. I think Clarence Thomas has been treated that way on campuses, though not necessarily by Yale Law School, and I find that contemptible.”
But some faculty members said they thought vigorous debate on the nomination is essential.
“People have differences in their principle commitments, and the question over the nominee is an occasion for a great and important debate in what we understand our constitutional commitments to be,” professor Reva Siegel said. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing; I think it’s a good thing. I don’t think it’s politics; I think it’s our constitution at stake.”