November 3, 2005
Alito and Vanguard
The conservative blogosphere is running round in circles accusing the left of “smearing” Sam Alito over the Vanguard issue. I hate to concede the point, but in this case the right may be right.
On the face of it, there did seem to be a conflict:
Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. ruled in a 2002 case in favor of the Vanguard mutual fund company at a time when he owned more than $390,000 in Vanguard funds and later complained about an effort to remove him from the case, court records show – despite an earlier promise to recuse himself from cases involving the company.
The case involved a Massachusetts woman, Shantee Maharaj, who has spent nearly a decade fighting to win back the assets of her late husband’s individual retirement accounts, which had been frozen by Vanguard after a court judgment in favor of a former business partner of her husband.
Her lawyer, John G. S. Flym, a retired Northeastern law professor, said in an interview yesterday that Alito’s “lack of integrity is so flagrant” in the case that he should be disqualified as a Supreme Court nominee.
But the Code of Conduct for United States Judges is pretty clear on this kind of thing:
(1) A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including but not limited to instances in which: […] the judge knows that the judge, individually or as a fiduciary, or the judge’s spouse or minor child residing in the judge’s household, has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding, or any other interest that could be affected substantially by the outcome of the proceeding;
(2) A judge should keep informed about the judge’s personal and fiduciary financial interests, and make a reasonable effort to keep informed about the personal financial interests of the judge’s spouse and minor children residing in the judge’s household.
(3) For the purposes of this section: […] “financial interest” means ownership of a legal or equitable interest, however small, or a relationship as director, advisor, or other active participant in the affairs of a party, except that:(i) ownership in a mutual or common investment fund that holds securities is not a “financial interest” in such securities unless the judge participates in the management of the fund;
Dems need to get off this particular issue right now—and refocus on those aspects of Alito’s record that really matter.
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