Alito's Choice of Ciongoli Criticized
A Supreme Court Justice's law clerk has the potential to influence some of the Court's written opinions. Justice Alito is catching criticism for hiring Adam Ciongoli, "a former top aide to Attorney General John Ashcroft and an architect of the Bush administration's legal strategy after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to be one of his law clerks." Here's one example:
"It really indicates a lapse in judgment," Deborah L. Rhode, who teaches legal ethics at Stanford, said of Justice Alito's decision. "I just don't think it helps your reputation for nonpartisanship, particularly after such partisan confirmation hearings, to start out by hiring someone who is perceived to have an ideological agenda."
The concern is that Ciongoli might weigh in on cases addressing the administration's detention without trial of those it labels as enemy combatants.
"He cannot work for the justice on any cases that come before the court if he worked on those matters at Time Warner or the government," said Stephen M. Gillers, who teaches legal ethics at New York University. "You don't want him to judge the quality of his own work."
Of course, it will never be possible to know what sort of casual conversations may take place in Justice Alito's chambers, said Monroe H. Freedman, who teaches legal ethics at Hofstra University. "No one is ever going to be able to police that," Professor Freedman said.
But, he added, "There is also a presumption that the justice can think for himself regardless of anyone he gets advice or counsel from."
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