Bench Memos

NRO’s home for judicial news and analysis.

PFAW’s Laughable Incompetence


People for the American Way’s latest report on Judge Alito continues its unbroken string of incompetent and dishonest assessments of John Roberts and Sam Alito. I haven’t read through the 154 pages of the report, and don’t intend to, as a spot check shows that it flunks my elementary tests of competence and fairness.

Specifically, the report’s discussion (on pages 18-20) of Alito’s opinion in Chittister on the Family and Medical Leave Act fails to disclose that lots of Democrat judges throughout the country read Supreme Court precedent exactly as Alito did, and it falsely asserts that the Supreme Court “reached precisely the opposite conclusion” in Hibbs. (I discuss these points more fully here, as supplemented and modified here.) Similarly, the report’s effort (on page 42) to distinguish Alito’s opinion in Sheridan from a unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court four years later obscures the fact that the Court adopted exactly Alito’s position on the legal question on which it granted review (as I discuss here).

PFAW even seeks to bolster the subtitle of its report—”No One to the Right of Sam Alito on this Court”—with a lie. PFAW, it turns out, is quoting left-wing law professor Jonathan Turley, whom PFAW now claims (on page 7) “supported John Roberts’ confirmation as Chief Justice.” Funny, this would appear to be the same Jonathan Turley who spoke harshly about Roberts on the very evening of his nomination, who early on breathlessly concocted a silly claim that an exchange between Roberts and Senator Durbin raised “difficult questions of fitness” that would dramatically transform the whole confirmation process, and who asserted that Roberts had (among other things) “a fairly antagonistic view of environmental interests.” And who offered much the same quote about Roberts that PFAW trumpets about Alito: Roberts, Turley wrote, is “someone who wouldn’t likely have many, if any, colleagues to his right on the high court.” If Turley’s statements amounted to support for Roberts, then I guess PFAW’s report means that it is supporting Alito.


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