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January 9, 2006

Sentencing questions for Judge Alito

The confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel Alito are about to begin, and there is more blogosphere coverage than any human could possibly consume.   The Law Librarian Blog has terrific coverage, including this abridged collection of Alito items from members of the Law Professor Blogs Network.  TalkLeft has assembled a lot of disparate items in this post, and How Appealing has tons of links, including this post reporting "where to watch and read real-time coverage."  My copious prior coverage of Alito and SCOTUS in the crime and sentencing arena are assembled in this recent post.

I expect Alito will be questioned about criminal justice issues more than was John Roberts.  But I fear death penalty issues will be explored far more than the many consequential and compelling issues that surround the Supreme Court's recent non-capital sentencing jurisprudence.  Nevertheless, it is at least possible we might hear some mention of Blakely and Booker, especially given Judge Alito's recent (and continuing?) work with the Constitution Project's Sentencing Initiative (details here and here).

Since suggesting questions for Judge Alito seems to be all the rage, let me propose two sentencing-related questions that I would like to see posed to the potential future Justice:

  1. Do you plan to continue your work with the Constitution Project's Sentencing Initiative?
  2. In light of Justice Thomas' concurrence in Shepard, do you agree that it is important for the Supreme Court to clarify soon Almendarez-Torres' continuing viability and the status of the "prior conviction" exception to the Apprendi-Blakely rule?

Readers are, of course, heartily encouraged to suggest additional questions in the comments.

January 9, 2006 at 12:04 PM | Permalink


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Could you point me out to where to obtain transcripts of the Alito hearings?

Also, I was wondering if you could give me some advice: I'm thinking about doing an online degree in criminal justice at a program like here: http://www.allcriminaljusticeschools.com/featured/online-criminal-justice-degree/ Do you think these programs are a good idea?

Posted by: David Hunter | Jan 9, 2006 7:57:22 PM

The way a judge looks at the world determines how he decides legal questions. Asking a judicial candidate what he thinks about legal issues is a waste of time, since he will refuse to be tied down on something he will likely rule on later. Instead, ask him about the world, and how he approaches life in this world. Look where he gets his ideas, his intellectual sustenance, that to which he regularly returns when challenges arise. These are perfectly legitimate questions that he should ideally be presented in advance, so he won't be blind-sided. Any insincerities would be instantly apparant in his answers.

I suggested this same series of questions for Justice Roberts and as far as I know, no one ever asked them. I'm a public defender, by the way, and spend most of my time writing appellate briefs.

Answers should not include The Bible, which we will stipulate is the single most significant book of Western civilization, unless the answer bears directly upon the law and the role of the judiciary.

-Name the three most significant books you have read in your life.

-Of those three, which single book influenced your thinking the most? Why?

-Name the three most harmful books written in the 20th Century.

-Which of the three was the most harmful? Why?

-Name the three most beneficial books written in the 20th Century.

-Which of the three was most beneficial? Why?

-If you could establish an undergraduate college curriculum any way you liked, what three books(any period) would you require every student to know intimately when he or she graduates? Why?

-Name three books you are planning to read in the next two years other than the books you would customarily read in your work as a judge.

-(If none of the books s/he mentions concerns economics) What book or other publication on economics has most influenced your thinking?

-From the standpoint of depth and intellect, who do you think has been the most brilliant Supreme Court justice who left the court before 1960?

-From the standpoint of depth and intellect, who do you think has been the most brilliant American legal philosopher(since the founding)?

-(Here's the sentencing question) Explain the Biblical injunction "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." What was its purpose? Exodus 21:24

Posted by: Tom Lowe | Jan 11, 2006 10:54:22 AM

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