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Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk

Justice Sam Alito has chosen his five law clerks. The latest pick is not someone just out of law school, but a former Justice Department lawyer who was a close confidant of John Ashcroft:

Adam G. Ciongoli, 37, a senior vice president at Time Warner Inc., served as counselor to Ashcroft from 2001 to 2003. He attended Georgetown University Law Center, clerked for Alito at the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit from 1995 to 1996, and helped prepare the justice for his recent confirmation hearings.

Ciongoli was an aide to Ashcroft during Ashcroft's years as a senator and then came to the Justice Department, where he advised Ashcroft on terrorism issues in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Among the issues he worked on were the detention of thousands of terrorism suspects in the United States and the use of military tribunals to try them.

Among those who have come to the court after working elsewhere, none in recent memory had held a government position as senior as Ciongoli's at the Justice Department, where he was widely regarded as one of Ashcroft's closest confidants.

Ciongoli will be tasked with heping Justice Alito write opinions (translation: he will draft them subject to the judge's approval) on many of the same issues he on which he previously advocated the Government's position.

Can you spell c-o-n-f-l-i-c-t? Apparantly, Justice Alito cannot.

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  • Re: Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Tue Feb 14, 2006 at 09:45:19 PM EST
    Sounds pretty grim.

    Re: Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Feb 14, 2006 at 10:01:00 PM EST
    Who the hell picks a 37 year-old law clerk? Who the hell applies to be a 37 year-old law clerk?

    Re: Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 02:12:24 AM EST
    Not all law students are 22 year olds. Should the older students not have a chance at a clerkship too? I don't have a problem with his age, but it seems odd to leave a fairly lucrative career where he's got a lot of experience to be a law clerk. Usually that's something new law school grads do to gain experience, not people who've been working for years. Maybe that's how it works for the Supreme Court, though.

    Re: Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 05:21:27 AM EST
    As you said, it's not his age. He's not a recent law school graduate. Clearly, as an Ashcroft disciple, he's a fundamentalist whack job looking to help shred the Constitution and the Law and impose some form of Christian Fundamentalist Taliban on us all.

    Re: Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 05:29:11 AM EST
    Nice pick for news about Alito, and yes his pick does appear to be a conflict of interest in-the-making. However, there was also some recent news about ALITO that TALKLEFT missed or ignored for some reason: he split with the SC's other 3 conservatives (in one of his first decisions) to defend the right of Missouri death row inmate Michael Taylor to make a last-minute challenge - he was scheduled to be executed the night of this SC decision - as to whether death by lethal injection is "cruel and unusual punishment." It was a 6-3 majority decision in Taylor's favor, so Alito wasn't a deciding factor, but I thought TL would've at least mentioned this, which the AP reported on Feb.2, if for no other reason than to show that Alito is capable of splitting from conservatives.

    Re: Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 05:30:42 AM EST
    Wow, a conservative judge picking conservative clerks. I bet Ginsberg and Stevens pick liberal ones. I also expect that the sun rises in the east, but, based on recent postings, that might be a surprise around here.

    Re: Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 07:23:13 AM EST
    Okay, so when are they rounding us up? I think, when most people hear the words "military tribunal", they think it's an awards dinner. Why else are we watching the crass duplicity exponentially increasing daily? I just wanna know, if Cheney really shot the guy from his car. And does this poor guy get his moment-in-the sun expanded into a funny superbowl commercial next season?

    Re: Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk (none / 0) (#8)
    by aw on Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 07:59:51 AM EST
    if for no other reason than to show that Alito is capable of splitting from conservatives.
    This case (whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment) is coming back. What do you think the chances are that Alito will agree that it is cruel, etc.? Maybe he just wants to toy with the guy in a leisurely way, maybe make a big statement about how great capital punishment is, maybe not. We shall see.

    Re: Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 11:00:26 AM EST
    Re Chucko's post that Alito is able to 'split from conservatives': I hope he will, but for now 1) this decision came on his first day on the job ... he probably had not read the papers on the case. 2) Each SC judge is assigned a set of states in these kind of imminent death issues. Most important: 3) His vote does NOT say that the guy won't be killed, it just said he wouldn't be killed that day. Let's see what he does when the question of whether the means of death is truly cruel and usual is heard. I am not getting my hopes up based on this day 1 vote.

    Re: Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 02:53:40 PM EST
    Chucko - Some people more cynical than me or you, might look at the first Alito decision as a "safe" way to demonstrate his non-ideological bent (he wasn't a deciding factor), while at the same time underscoring his "pro-life" bonafides (in that the "Death Penalty" can never be "pro-life" by definition). The cynics might also fear that Alito was only put on the court in the first place, to work in concert with the Conservatives to overturn Roe v. Wade, so votes in matters unrelated to this (and probably executive/corporate power) don't really matter. After all, this case affected ONE person on death row... it does not pretend to comment on the legality of state-sponsored murder.

    Re: Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 02:56:27 PM EST
    I don't know how common it is for Supreme Court justices to hire career law clerks, but it's not uncommon for federal judges at lower levels than the SC or for state court judges to hire them. Career law clerking can be an excellent opportunity for those of us who don't want to worry about spending too much time on one project, making rain or making partner. The legal issues are more varied and interesting, especially if you're interested in litigation. As I like to tell my friends, there are few other jobs in which a person can have all the power and none of the responsibility... ;o) You have to like writing and you have to like your judge for a long-term clerkship to work out well, though. I could certainly understand this guy's wanting to clerk for Alito if Alito's views don't bother him. Federal clerkships pay quite well, and you can't beat the Supreme Court for "status," if you're the ambitious type. (My personal feeling on clerking for Alito? I'd rather suck canal water.)

    Re: Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 05:39:08 PM EST
    Hey Sleepless, LGraham9 and co., you're definitely right to point out that Alito & the SC didn't rule on the legality of "lethal injection" on Alito's first day, and I remain curious as to where the Court (not just Alito) will come down on this form of "state-sponsored murder" as Graham calls it (that's a DEAD-ON description). However, my point in all this (besides noting that TL, which I love to read, didn't write about this case and allow this discussion to take place as far as I know), is that UNLIKE Scalia, Roberts, and Thomas, Alito believed that Missouri death-row inmate Taylor had the right to challenge this form of capital punishment, which is more than you can say for those other (compassionless) conservatives. And Sleepless, whether Alito read the papers on that case or not, we don't know, but maybe he was aware that the Supreme Court awarded a STAY to 2 death-row inmates in Florida for the same issue about a week earlier, and thus decided to stick with a fresh precedent. Cynics might say though that had Alito been on the SC for both the Florida and Missouri inmates' appeals for execution delays, he would've voted to allow the execution to proceed in all those cases. I doubt it. Having said all that, you have to note that this is a guy who has a mixed record on death-row cases as an appeals court judge. So he's a wild card (on this issue, so we don't know how he'll continue voting). That's better than being a predictable ideologue, in my humble opinion.

    Re: Alito Picks Uber-Right Law Clerk (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Feb 15, 2006 at 07:55:56 PM EST
    Given that George Bush picked this guy (actually the Federalist Society picked this guy), cynicism re Alito is realistic, and very very depressing. My senator (Feinstein) at least went thru the motions of supporting a filibuster. I realized that week that it didn't matter because Bush getting 2, and perhaps more SC positions to fill adds to his legacy of screwing most of us. If only it were just Bush. I am feeling hopeless these days.