Ignoring the facts in a character attack of Justice Alito

June 28, 2013

Having clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, we were more than a little surprised by Dana Milbank’s June 25 Washington Sketch, “Alito is on a roll. An eye roll.” Perhaps it is a question of the eye of the beholder. Or perhaps it was a matter of not letting the facts get in the way of a good character attack.

Mr. Milbank criticized Justice Alito for allegedly making faces during Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s reading of her dissent, contending that this is typical behavior when his female colleagues read their opinions. When Justice Sonia Sotomayor joked while announcing a decision in a “little-watched case about water rights,” for instance, Mr. Milbank said that Justice Alito “rolled his eyes and shook his head.” Mr. Milbank did not mention that Justice Alito had in fact joined Justice Sotomayor’s opinion. Indeed, it was an uncontroversial case that was decided unanimously.

The worst aspect of this snide piece, however, was the suggestion that Justice Alito has some deep and abiding disrespect for women. Mr. Milbank said that Justice Alito “mocked” Justice Ginsburg, “the second woman to serve on the high court,” and “demonstrated his disdain” for Justices Elena Kagan and Sotomayor. This suggestion is offensive and couldn’t be further from the truth, as his many female clerks can attest.

Those of us who have been fortunate to work closely with Justice Alito know that he is a good man who serves every day with humility, dedication and incredible intelligence and insight.

Mr. Milbank is a humorist and satirist.  He can make mountains out of molehills if he wants to. But he should take a page out of Justice Alito’s book and pay more attention to getting it right. 

William Ranney Levi, Washington

Dana Remus, Durham, N.C.

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