The Corner

Law & the Courts

Alt for Sixth Circuit

I write to endorse the suggestion of conservative champion and former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell that NRO’s old friend and sometime contributor Robert Alt be nominated to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. I have been told quite reliably (although not by Robert himself, to whom I haven’t spoken in quite some time) that Robert is indeed on at least a semi-short list for the spot (i.e., under serious, rather than just cursory, consideration). Without even knowing who else is on the list, I can say with great certainty that nobody could possibly be a better addition to the federal appellate bench.

As Blackwell notes, Alt actually clerked for the terrific, thoughtful conservative judge he would be replacing, Alice Batchelder. Robert knows the circuit, and he knows the law. Anyone who has ever worked with him knows he is brilliant; anyone who has spent time with him knows he is a warm, engaging, wonderful human being. And anyone who has watched as he moved from the Heritage Foundation to the Buckeye Institute knows that Robert has the soul of a reformer, selflessly dedicated to the public weal.

Robert Alt also writes with great clarity, which was one reason I was already a fan of his several years before I met him. Consider this little NRO column (this one co-written with his then-fellow Heritage scholar Brian Walsh) explaining a business case known as Stoneridge — a post concise enough for me to suggest you read it yourself, written with such great clarity that it is almost impossible not to understand the basic legal issues involved. And I loved the principles, and the economy of words, in his closing sentences:

It is also an important victory for the separation of powers, and for those who believe that Congress, rather than the courts, should be making policy. Because this exemplifies the rule of law as opposed to the rule of men, such results should be commonplace. Because they are no longer commonplace, each one should be applauded.

Good stuff.

I also can say that, as a source and resource for a journalist, Robert was first-rate. If I ever need definitive explanations on the finer points of law, I know I can count on Robert to always, always make sure I accurately understand, and portray, those explanations. He has never led me astray.

I completely agree with Ken Blackwell that someone who has devoted 20 years to the cause of textualism and the rule of law, and willingly received far, far less in the way of prestige and money than he could have done in private practice, will be a truly reliable vote for principled textualism on the court.

Conservatives should all make clear to the Trump administration that Robert Alt would be considered not just a home run but a grand slam as a judicial nominee. And moderates should welcome his humble approach and his attention to case details and procedural questions, rather than the politicized, results-oriented intellectual flim-flam that some jurists adopt.

A phenomenally qualified man (again, see his bio), Alt also is brave, having interrupted his great legal career to serve as a war correspondent in Iraq. His courage extends to his constitutional convictions, which will stand him in good stead as a federal-appeals judge of whom all Americans, especially Ohioans, can be proud.

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