Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Questions Raised About Justice Alito's Demeanor

010_alito_croppedTwo different sources have raised serious questions about Justice Samuel Alito's judicial demeanor based on his performance on the bench during the announcements of opinions.

ConLawProf Garrett Epps over at The Atlantic calls Alito's performance a "mini-tantrum," that although silent (and thus not recorded in transcript or audio) was "clear to all with eyes, and brought gasps from more than one person in the audience." 

And in the Washington Post, Dana Millbanks writes that "Alito visibly mocked his colleague" and "shook his head from side to side in disagreement, rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling."  

Alito's actions were prompted by Justice Ginsburg's statements regarding her dissents in two employment cases, Vance v. Ball State University, which Alito had authored and rendered from the bench, and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar.

Both Epps and Millbank not only note Alito's disrepect for a colleague, but point out the gendered nature of his actions.  Millbank goes further and notes that he had earlier witnessed Alito's demonstration of "disdain for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, the two other women on the court."

Epps compares Alito's actions to a highschooler:  Alito looked like the character in the movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont High, signaling to the homies his contempt for Ray Walston as the bothersome history teacher, Mr. Hand."  Millbank places Alito below the high school range, contended that Alito "frequently supplements words with middle-school gestures."

Perhaps the Chief Justice needs to have a conversation with Associate Justice Alito?  He might be guided by the experience of many law professors who routinely teach professionalism, including not rolling one's eyes at statements by colleagues.



The Rudest Justice in Slate (June 27);

Splenetic Justice: Justice Samuel Alito's Role on the Roberts Court in The Nation (June 28); 

Ignoring the facts in a character attack of Justice Alito, Letter in Washington Post by Former Clerks (June 28);

Alito's Demeanor Inspires Push to Make Court Follow Code in National Law Journal (July 1) (paywall).


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Didn't he do the same thing during the president's 2011 state of the union address? This seems to be his trademark, which, if true, is plainly unbecoming of a sitting high court justice. Buck up, Mr. Associate Justice.

Posted by: Art | Jun 27, 2013 11:35:12 AM

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