October 20, 2009
New York Times
Alito Troubled by Concerns Over Court’s Catholics
In a telephone interview, Notre Dame law professor Richard W. Garnett echoed Alito’s comment that the religion of qualified justices will not determine their views of pending cases, even if their experiences might shade it.
’’It’s not the calling of a Catholic judge to enforce the teachings of the faith. It’s the calling of a Catholic judge, as well as he or she can, to interpret and apply the laws of the political community,’’ Garnett said.
However, noting Sotomayor’s ‘’wise Latina woman’’ comment, he added: ‘’No one thinks the moral commitments of a judge are irrelevant. I don’t think anybody can completely put aside who they are.’’
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October 18, 2009
Supreme Court’s Stevens Keeps Cards Close to Robe
Notre Dame law professor Richard Garnett, a former law clerk to Rehnquist, says Stevens’ influence has not come from a consistent constitutional vision, as Scalia’s has, or by force of personality, as Brennan’s did.
“Stevens’ influence comes in a third way,” Garnett says, pointing to the justice’s long tenure and senior status — which includes the power to assign which justice writes the court’s opinion when Stevens is in the majority and the chief justice is on the other side.
Garnett says that on disputes over Guantanamo detainees, gay rights and the death penalty, Stevens has worked with “swing” justices to take “a lead role in shaping how these opinions are reasoned and written.” When the court is closely divided, justices who control the majority usually try to craft an opinion as narrowly as possible so that they do not lose the key swing vote.
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