Monday, December 26, 2005

Connecting the dots: Alito, Bush and Baseball?

Carter Phillips [longtime friend of U. S. Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito; Phillips has made forty-seven appearances before the Supreme Court]: …I have gotten to that age [about 54] where people of my age are the ones who start to run the world…

Phillips: …[H]e [Judge Alito] was a ringer on my law firm’s softball team, as well, and again-- it is good to have a power hitter who plays a…mean first base.

Phillips: …[H]e [Alito] came as a purely non-political lawyer.
Carter Phillips, longtime friend of Supreme Court Nominee Sam Alito [whose confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin Jan. 9], suggests Sam Alito’s nomination to the Supremes is somewhat surprising in light of his lack of focus on politics [See, below].

However, others make clear that Alito identified with much of the Reagan Administration political philosophy, and was not simply functioning as an advocate in the administration. On the other hand, they also argue that is hardly a disqualifier for serving on the highest Court in the Land, reminding us of Justice Ruth Bader Ginzburg's political alignments and activity prior to her confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice [See here]. For a contra view about Judge Alito's fitness to sit on the U. S. Supreme Court, [see here].

Interviewer: It must feel a little odd when a personal friend is nominated for the Court?

Carter Phillips: Well, in some ways, that was true, though, with Chief Justice [John] Roberts--I have known him actually since 1981, as well, though we weren’t in the same office, but he was in the Justice Department at the same time, and our paths crossed at different ways over the years, so I am not sure-I mean it is a little bit different because I am a little bit closer to Sam than I was to John, but, you know, it is exciting…Somebody said yesterday, you know, I have gotten to that age where people of my age are the ones who start to run the world, so it shouldn’t come as a huge shock I’d have to run into him in one context or another.
Phillips: …it may heat up, but at least at this stage, it seems to me there are some serious objectors out there, but they don’t seem to be getting that much traction, I guess.
Phillips: …he is a good ballplayer. We played on the same team when we were in the Solicitor General’s office. It has a team that plays other teams in and around the City [DC]. …Sam was a very good first baseman and power hitter. And, then, he was a ringer on my law firm’s softball team, as well, and again-- it is good to have a power hitter who plays a…mean first base.
Phillips: I do have a baseball card [with him as the baseball player] in his Philadelphia Phillies uniform…that’s from a Phillies fantasy camp down in Florida. I think his wife sent him to it and he spent a week with all of the old Phillies players and those are the players he is closest to in his own mind. Obviously when you are younger, you tend to have heroes and those are the ones who tend to participate in these kinds of camps. [As most know, George Bush also likes baseball, having assembled a group of partners that purchased the Texas Rangers prior to his becoming Governor in Texas [See here and here]; Bush is also one of the few people who, when throwing out the first ball, gets it over the plate--with some velocity].
If you had sat down twenty years ago and said who in that group [in the Solicitor General’s office], do you think is going to be on the Supreme Court, I’m not sure Sam would have been at or even above the fold on that list, not because he isn’t a spectacularly talented lawyer, but mostly I suppose because the politics of it. I mean he came as a purely non-political lawyer. That was my sense of him through that entire period that he and I worked together in that office. He is just a very talented person and for my money, it’s wonderful to know you can be a very talented lawyer and achieve incredibly high accomplishments within our judicial system, but I wouldn’t have bet on that twenty some odd years ago at the time, certainly.
Carter Phillips, Managing Partner of the Washington, D.C. office of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, speaking recently on C- Span’s "America and the Courts."
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