Robert Knight

Speaking of liberal jurists, Leahy also found time to burnish the reputation of departing Justice David Souter, who sashayed his way on to the court by being billed as a strict constructionist conservative, and once aboard, dispensed liberal liquor by the barrel:

“Justice Souter,” Leahy claimed, “served the Nation with distinction for nearly two decades on the Supreme Court with a commitment to justice, an admiration for the law, and an understanding of the impact of the Court’s decisions on the daily lives of ordinary Americans.”

You mean ordinary Americans like Suzette Kelo, who saw city officials in New London, Conn. expand the idea of eminent domain to seize her home not for a vital right of way but merely to facilitate more tax-generating development? Souter, who voted with the 5-4 majority in Kelo v. City of New London (2005) to rubber stamp this egregious violation of property rights, must have decided that she was not an “ordinary American” but something else. A Canadian, maybe.

It really is a shame that Souter’s home town of Weare, New Hampshire in the wake of Kelo rejected a serious proposal to condemn his home and build in its place the Lost Liberty Hotel. Perhaps the city fathers would have favored a miniature golf course, taxidermy shack or whatever else might have been more remunerative than the justice’s residence.

Getting back to Leahy, he peppered his speech with warnings to his colleagues about civility, which must have made them feel something like a church choir being reprimanded by Hulk Hogan:

“I trust that all Members of this Committee here today will reject the efforts of partisans and outside pressure groups that have sought to create a caricature of Judge Sotomayor while belittling her record, her achievements and her intelligence.”

Leahy, who voted against the nominations of the highly qualified Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito, is a curious advocate for restraint and courtesy. Here’s how National Review’s Jay Nordlinger recalls Leahy’s conduct of hearings in 2001 for Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft, one of the most gentlemanly public officials in memory:

“Leahy threw at Ashcroft everything he had, trying to sink the nomination. There were hostile witness panels, hostile allegations—the works. Says one person close to the Ashcroft team, ‘Our reaction was, Wow! I mean, holy Moses! The guy's trying to slay us!’ In the end, Ashcroft squeaked through, but not before being tarred before the nation as a racist, reactionary nut.”

That’s something to keep in mind when we hear Mr. Leahy admonish his fellow Judiciary Committee panelists:

“As we proceed, let no one distort Judge Sotomayor’s record.”

Too late, Senator. You already have.

Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.