Bench Memos

A Teacher’s Tribute

On an e-mail list to which I subscribe, I have seen a copy of a statement about Judge Alito by Walter F. Murphy, a justly famous and famously liberal political scientist and Robby George’s predecessor as the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton. I suppose the letter’s distribution to scores of e-mail recipients on this list brings it more or less into the public domain, and it looks like Murphy addressed it to a student journalist at Princeton, but I will characterize it rather than quote it.

Alito was Murphy’s student as a Princeton undergraduate in the early 1970s, and the teacher remembers the student, with whom he has stayed in contact off and on over the years, with obvious fondness, admiration, and pride. Murphy remembers Alito as one of the best students he had in his long teaching career–maybe as the best of them all. He supervised Alito’s senior thesis, on the Italian constitutional court, and recalls predicting long ago that Alito would become a great judge. Noting their disagreements about some things (Murphy declares himself opposed to originalism but locates Alito squarely in that camp), the teacher unhesitatingly endorses the confirmation of his student.

If Republicans need a liberal voice to support the Alito nomination at the hearings, they can do no better than Walter Murphy.

Matthew J. Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

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