Clarence Thomas, Harold Koh, Law School Deans, Law Schools, Linda Greenhouse, Politics, Samuel Alito

Attention, Concerned Alumni of Yale: Justice Alito Gets (Green)housed

samuel alito harold koh linda greenhouse.JPGChristmas is less than three weeks away. Are you stumped about what to get for your liberal lawyer friends?
Assuming they’re okay with Christmas gifts — maybe they object to even personal celebration of the holiday — have we got an idea for you: Harold Hongju Koh Bobblehead Dolls!!!
Harold Koh is the dean of Yale Law School. And he’s an unapologetic liberal, regarded by some YLS students and alumni as allowing his personal political beliefs to affect his work as dean (not for the better). It’s only natural for the Yale chapter of the ACS, a leading liberal organization, to honor him with a bobblehead doll.
Above the Law has just learned of another manifestation of Dean Koh’s alleged political hackery. One of his deanly duties is to preside over the committee that selects a recipient for the Yale Law School Award of Merit. This prestigious and prominent honor is presented each year to an outstanding graduate or longtime faculty member of YLS.
We’ve heard that Dean Koh, short-circuiting any real discussion, essentially ordered that the 2007 Award of Merit would go to Linda Greenhouse — the left-leaning Supreme Court correspondent of the New York Times. Other committee members proposed Justice Samuel Alito ’75, confirmed earlier this year to the U.S. Supreme Court, as the most natural and appropriate choice. But Dean Koh squelched their support for the conservative jurist. He cut short the deliberations, declaring by fiat that Greenhouse — who did a one-year master’s program at Yale — would receive the award.
Does this strike you as outrageous? It gets worse. The reasoning employed by Dean Koh — to the extent that he employed reasoning, as opposed to simply forcing his pick upon the committee — was pretty dubious.
Based on what we’ve heard, we’ve created a fictionalized transcript of the committee meeting. Check it out, after the jump.

This transcript is FICTIONALIZED. And a trifle satirical. But it is loosely based on what we’ve heard about the actual proceedings. Think of it as a “docudrama” of sorts.
Dean Koh: Thank you, everyone, for coming today. I really appreciate the fact that so many of you have traveled, some from very far away, to discuss who should receive the Yale Law School Association’s Award of Merit.
Most of you already know this, but just to start off our deliberations, I’ll read a short paragraph providing background about the award:

Since 1957, the Yale Law School Association has presented the Award of Merit annually to an esteemed graduate of Yale Law School or to a person who has served as a full-time member of the Yale Law School faculty for at least ten years. The recipients of the Award are recognized for having made a substantial contribution to public service or to the legal profession.

Now I’d like to open the floor to anyone who’d like to make a nomination or talk about possible nominees.
Committee Member 1: Well, in light of events earlier this year, I’d say that Sam Alito — class of ’75 — is the obvious pick. As a recently confirmed justice of the Supreme Court, I think he’d be the hands-down choice.
Committee Member 2: I agree with [CM 1]. We’ve given the Award of Merit to a number of state supreme court justices — Margaret Marshall [of Massachusetts], Drayton Nabers [of Alabama], and Randall Shepard [of Indiana]. So it would seem pretty logical to give it to a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court — who served with distinction on a federal appeals court before that.
Dean Koh: Well, I think you’re all on the right track in thinking about the Supreme Court. But I actually had a different nominee in mind.
The award has gone to numerous judges over the years. I was thinking that this year, we should give the award to a non-judge. Specifically, Linda Greenhouse, the Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times.
Committee Member 3: Isn’t the award supposed to go to a Law School alum or faculty member? Linda Greenhouse — is she even a lawyer?
Dean Koh: No, she’s not a lawyer — but she IS a graduate of Yale Law School. She earned her Master of Studies here.
Committee Member 4: You mean that one-year program for legal journalists?
Deah Koh: Yes, that’s right….
Committee Member 2: I think Greenhouse is a fine reporter, and maybe she should receive the award in a future year. But this year, we really should honor Justice Alito. Very few law schools can say that they have an alumnus or alumna on the U.S. Supreme Court — and Yale has two, Alito and Thomas.
Deah Koh: Actually, you raise an important point. Clarence Thomas has been on the Court for many years, and we’ve never given him the Award of Merit. So I don’t think it would be appropriate for us to honor Justice Alito, since we’ve never honored Justice Thomas.
Committee Member 1: But Harold, that was only because Justice Thomas REFUSED TO ACCEPT the award. Maybe you’re not familiar with this — it all happened before you were dean…
Committee Member 3: Thomas has had a rocky relationship with the Law School, ever since his confirmation hearings, when several faculty members and alumni testified against him. That’s unfortunate. But that’s definitely not the case with Alito.
Committee Member 2: I can confirm what [CM3] is saying. Justice Alito loves Yale — I was at the Law School when he was, and spoke to him again around the time of his hearings, to wish him luck. Sam’s very proud of being a Yale alum.
Dean Koh: But, I just don’t… I mean, it would look like a slap at Justice Thomas. Justice Alito just joined the Court. Justice Thomas has been on the Court for some 15 years now. We can’t give the award to Alito…
Committee Member 4: I think the Clarence Thomas comparison is inapposite, Harold. Justice Alito would be delighted to receive the Award of Merit, and he’d be a great pick.
Committee Member 1: Agreed. The Thomas point is a red herring — he explicitly declined the award. Alito would not.
Dean Koh: But it really wouldn’t… You see, Justice Thomas…
Committee Member 3: Look, why don’t we at least contact Alito, as we did with Thomas, and see if he’d be willing to accept? If he declines, or expresses reservations, then fine, we can give it to Greenhouse.
Dean Koh: Look, I hate to do this, but I have to run — I have another meeting to attend. But I don’t think there’s much left to discuss anyway.
I think we’re all in agreement. The Award of Merit will go to Linda Greenhouse, for her superb coverage of the Supreme Court over the years.
(Koh gets up from his seat.)
So I thank you all for coming today, and I really appreciate your input into this process. Closer to the announcement, you’ll receive a draft press release from the Office of Public Affairs. If you have any comments, please get back to them promptly.
I hope to see you at the reunion next year, when we’ll make the official presentation of the award. Thanks again, everyone.
(The meeting concludes.)
Update: More about the story appears here.
Harold Hongju Koh Bobblehead Doll [American Constitution Society of Yale Law School via Instapundit]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Harold Koh (scroll down)

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