The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

samuel alito at duquesne

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Samuel Alito came to Duquesne University here in Pittsburgh to receive the Carol Los Mansmann Award for Distinguished Public Service today, and I was there (although I had to leave before Alito spoke). It was a big deal--Alito was there, of course, but so were eleven other justices from the third circuit federal appeals court (where Alito and Mansmann served). Incompetent Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff sent his tribute by teleconference, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts sent a filmed dealie, and a bunch of local dignitaries were there. It was a very important day for Duquesne and the Duquesne law school, and good for them.

I do question, though, why a Catholic university, devoted to service to the poor and oppressed and even to prisoners, would honor a man who has almost uniformly over his judicial career sided with the powerful over the weak, corporations over consumers, the state over its citizens, police over civilians. Most recently Alito dissented in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, arguing in essence that the Bush administration has the right to hold Guantanamo prisoners indefinitely, without charging them, without giving them legal counsel, and without allowing them to even challenge their detention. But what's wrong with that? The Magna Carta is clearly "quaint" and outdated, and Republican Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani thinks that the president has the right to throw anyone he wants in a hole forever and never should have to charge them with anything. (His rival, Mitt Romney, is undecided about whether we should revive this element of the divine right of kings--he'd want to talk to "smart lawyers" to see if he could do that. I suggest John Yoo or David Addington.)

(There were only two protesters outside of the speech and they were very quickly sent off-campus by security, although both were members of the D.U. community--the explanation, directly from the mouth of D.U. legal counsel, was that political protests are not allowed on campus because they violate Duquesne's tax-exempt nonprofit status.)

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