Does Yale Law School Owe Anything to Alito?
posted by Daniel Solove
A New York Times article queries whether Yale Law School has been institutionally too harsh to its former professors and alumni who are nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. Robert Bork was a former Yale Law School faculty member and Justice Thomas was a Yale Law School alumni. Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito is also an alumni.
According to the article:
Faculty members testified on both sides both times. But the school was generally opposed to their nominations, said professors, students and alumni. Justice Thomas was thought to be unqualified, and Judge Bork’s views were considered too extreme.
In his 14 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas, of the Yale class of 1974, has refused to return here, and Judge Bork, who was on the faculty for 15 years, chortles during speeches when he cites “a bit of populist wisdom” he once saw on a bumper sticker: “Save America. Close Yale Law School.” . . . .
The two earlier conservative nominees may never overcome their anger at what they considered the school’s disloyalty, said Steven Brill, a legal journalist, entrepreneur and law school classmate of Judge Alito’s.
“They both think,” Mr. Brill said, “that the law school betrayed them.”
I find the suggestion here rather odd. Is Yale Law School supposted to support every graduate nominated for the Supreme Court or running for political office? Is this a duty that a law school owes its alumni?
I think not. The faculty and students of a law school should decide on the merits of the Alito nomination without putting a special thumb on the scale because he has a connection to the school. This isn’t a betrayal because I don’t believe there’s any duty owed. Each professor and student is an individual who can make up his or her own mind. And just because many professors at a school take a particular position doesn’t mean that this is the institution’s position. In fact, if things were different — if professors and students were to feel any obligation (however slight) to support a nominee because he or she has an institutional connection — then I’d be very worried about the independence of thought at the school.
Hat tip: Althouse