Mainstream Judges

Tuesday, November 08, 2005
I spent a rather frustrating session yesterday on Ann Althouse's blog trying to wade through learned legal opinion on the Alito nomination. You may, if you wish to revel in the intricacies of law refer to it; but as a lay person in the law, I simply wanted to know whether the posters there considered Alito in the mainstream or out of the mainstream--Several contributors were helpful and they earned my undying appreciation; others were a bit snarkier and their attitudes suggest why many lawyers are held in low esteem--but you can read the exchanges yourself.

Last night as I was conducting search and destroy operations on my few remaining grey cells, I kept wondering if there was some sort of metric for determining a judge's location in the mainstream. Clearly, of course, this whole measurement begs the question about where if at all the mainstream is--but lets assume that there is one somewhere.

It seemed to me that one measure would be the number and character of that jurist's dissents from majority opinions; a second measure would be which of that jurist's opinions were overturned by higher courts whether in dissent or in majority. Does this particular formulation make sense? Clearly, after wading through the swamp yesterday, someone needs to translate the legal scholastic disputations into plain enough language a lay person can use.


vnjagvet said...

I will be glad to help with this, Roger. I have an MD appointment early this afternoon, but will be back.

The bottom line is that the "mainstream" is another label with subjective connotations. Other examples: are "activist", "conservative", "liberal" and the like.

One thing to understand: The Circuit in which Alito has been a judge is known as a relatively "liberal" circuit. Based in Philadelphia, the states it covers are New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Many of its Judges were educated in Ivy League law schools.

David Thomson said...

“...someone needs to translate the legal scholastic disputations into plain enough language a lay person can use.”

You are insufficiently cynical. If legal language was easy to use---we might find out that we rarely need the services of a credentialled attorney. Gosh, do want these professionals to be forced to rob banks or mug old ladies?

Anonymous said...

I think the next time someone says a judge is out of the mainstream, he/she should be asked to define which views are the "mainstream" .The we'd be spared this monkey business. And yes, I will now run so I don't have to say what I think that is. LOL


RogerA said...

Jim--you will doing the country a great favor by simplifying the discussion for us non-legal types.
Feel free to add to this or do your own posting.

terrye said...

I think we first need to define mainstream. I don't think people agree on what that is.

flenser said...

Mainstream means "People who think as I do."

Which means that to me Alito seems mainstream, but to Barbara Boxer he appears as an extremist.

Technically speaking, Alito is a "centerist", He does not believe that judges should implement a liberal agenda. On the other hand he also does not believe that they should implement a "right wing" agenda.

If his past rulings are a guide then he thinks that judges should interpet the law narrowly, and give great deference to legislative bodies as long as they do not clearly violate the letter of the law.

It says a lot about the state of the country that this position is judged as extremist and right wing by many people.