A Poor Excuse For A Supreme Court Nominee

Throughout the confirmation process, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito has had difficulty standing by his words and taking responsibility for his actions.

For example, when he was nominated to a federal appeals court in 1990 he promised the Senate that he would recuse himself from any case involving the investment firm Vanguard because of his substantial investments with the company. In 2002, he ruled on a case involving Vanguard anyway.

Instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Alito has made excuses. In a letter sent to Alito yesterday, Sen. Ted Kennedy documented six different excuses Alito has floated to avoid taking responsibility. Here’s a summary:

1. It wasn’t really a promise. He was free to dissolve his responsibility at anytime.

2. It was an oversight.

3. It was OK because the specific investments he owned were not at issue.

4. It was OK because he “voluntarily” recused himself once a complaint was filed.

5. It was a “harmless error.”

6. It didn’t matter because the defendant was representing herself.

These excuses are contradictory and irrelevant. But biggest concern is not that his excuses are bad but that he’s taken the time to make so many. It is essential for Supreme Court justices accept accountability for their words and actions. Alito has shown he has trouble doing either.

UPDATE: The Boston Globe highlights another case where Alito promised to recuse himself but appears to have participated anyway. This time, it was a case he helped prosecute. The Globe notes “it would appear to be a fourth instance in which the Supreme Court pick was recorded as being in a case he had promised to avoid.” (Thanks to reader RevDeb)