Justice Samuel Alito Jr. spoke to the Federalist Society last night, but photos of him doing so are hard to come by. That's because photographers other than the Federalist Society's own were barred from the event.
Keith Appell, a spokesman for the Federalist Society, said cameras were prohibited by Alito's security detail. It was an interesting twist on a night in which Federalist Society co-founder David McIntosh announced to the crowd that James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, the independent filmmakers who posed as a pimp and a prostitute and videoed ACORN employees giving advice on how to skirt taxes, were in attendance. "You all saw those great videos that brought down the ACORN organization, right? Well, those kids are here," McIntosh said.
Kathy Arberg, the court spokeswoman, said "The justice's policy was that the event was open to still cameras and pencil press," and that the Federalist Society was informed of that policy before the event.
The Nov. 12 barring of cameras came just days after The New York Times reported that Justice Anthony Kennedy's office had insisted on pre-approving a Manhattan high school newspaper’s story about an Oct. 28 talk he gave to a student assembly.
In last night’s speech, Alito spoke of the importance of judges interpreting “what the law is and not what it should be.” He said, “That should be the basic starting point for anyone discussing the role of federal courts. But this basic starting point has been and always will be under attack, sometimes subtly and sometimes overtly.”
Alito stood up for his newest colleague, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who Alito said had been criticized during her confirmation hearings for repeatedly saying that her tenure on the high court would be characterized by fidelity to the law.
Referring to her opening statement, Alito said, “There was not a word in that statement that was controversial, but that’s not how it was received by her progressive audience.” He cited as an example a post on the Federalist Society’s Web site by Georgetown law professor Louis Michael Seidman, in which Seidman wrote, “I was completely disgusted by Judge Sotomayor's testimony today. If she was not perjuring herself, she is intellectually unqualified to be on the Supreme Court. If she was perjuring herself, she is morally unqualified.”
“And those were the words of one of her supporters,” Alito said. “I had a lot of opponents, but I never had any supporters like that.”
Alito also referred to the recent decision Ricci v. DeStefano, in which the Court held that the city of New Haven, Conn., violated Title VII by discarding the results of a firefighter promotion test that would have led to no minority promotions. The case became one of the primary themes of Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings because as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2d Circuit, she voted in the city’s favor.
Alito said that, although he disagreed with Sotomayor’s 2d Circuit vote and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court dissent, they and other colleagues with whom he has disagreed during his time as a judge, were not “fools or acting in bad faith.” He applauded Ginsburg for not basing her decision on “sympathy” for the plaintiffs.
“Sympathy is not what Ricci, Vargas, or any of the other firefighters have a right to demand,” Alito said. “What they have a right to demand is even enforcement of the law.”