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January 8, 2006

An astute reason to think Alito is neato

With Judge Alito's confirmation hearings now just hours away, the Alito buzz gets louder and louder (just check out all the stories linked at How Appealing).  Amidst all the din, I was intrigued to see this op-ed highlighting that "if confirmed by the Senate to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Samuel Alito will be the only justice to have served as a U.S. attorney."

Authored by John W. Suthers, a former U.S. attorney for the district of Colorado who currently serves as Colorado attorney general, the op-ed includes these astute observations:

Alito's experience as U.S. attorney, coupled with 15 years on the federal bench, will prove valuable on the Supreme Court. In recent years, there has been an explosion in the number and complexity of federal crimes — an explosion called "startling" by an American Bar Association task force.  Not surprisingly, federal criminal law cases now make up a large percentage of the court's docket.  In one of the most significant cases of last term, for example, the court set aside the mandatory nature of the federal sentencing guidelines.

Of course, ever since October (see here and here and here), I have been making much of Judge  Alito's background as a prosecutor, and I am very interested to see how this background and his other unique criminal law experiences (such as his work as a member of the Constitution Project's bipartisan Sentencing Initiative) will come up during confirmation hearings.

For those gearing up for the hearings next week, I have assembled below much of my coverage of Alito and SCOTUS work in the crime and sentencing arena in this recent post.

January 8, 2006 at 02:49 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Several months I had a conversation with the District Attorney in Wake County, NC about our structured sentencing law which is based on an extensive grid of mandatory sentence ranges. He said the best thing I have heard about the wisdom of the grid. "The Structured Sentencing Law is at the same time too complicated and too simple."

Mandatory minimum grid sentencing unfairly assumes that a one size fits all grid, oblivious to the infinite variety inherent in an endeavor such as the criminal justice system, is good policy. On the other hand, sentencing now raises many more subtle and complex issues of constitutional law, strategy, evidence, etc. than the trial itself.

Hopefully, Judge Alito's familiarity with sentencing will be a helpful addition to the Court. Who would have thought five years ago that Justice Scalia would become the champion of the criminal defense bar?

Bruce Cunningham

Posted by: bruce cunningham | Jan 8, 2006 8:27:11 AM

I think many of us would have been more comfortable if he had spent any significant part of his life as a defense attorney. It will be interesting if he is going to be just another Republocrat or if he has a real understanding of the Constitution and Bill of Rights as the liberty protecting and libertarian document that it is.

Posted by: That Lawyer Dude | Jan 8, 2006 10:45:59 AM

Your raise great insights, commentors. I am hopeful that, perhaps aided by the smart Blakely Five, Alito's perspective on the Constitution and Bill of Rights as the liberty protecting and libertarian document might well evolve.

Posted by: Doug B. | Jan 8, 2006 10:54:26 AM

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