- The Washington Times - Friday, November 4, 2005

Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. has addressed the Federalist Society multiple times during his long-running membership, and he stuck with dry legal humor during a speech in 1997.

Delivered at the conservative society’s national convention, the speech titled “The Crisis in the Legal Profession” focused on the gap between reality and the way criminal lawyers perceive themselves.

The “gladiatorial image is wildly inaccurate,” Judge Alito said, citing a national lawyers magazine, which said criminal lawyers see themselves as gladiators fighting the dragons of bureaucracy and the constabulary.

“A more apt image of what actually occurs is two gladiators who march into the arena with their armor and their weapons then promptly throw down their armor, throw down their weapons and go off to a little table in the shade and negotiate a deal,” he said.

Federalist Society President Eugene B. Meyer said Judge Alito also moderated a panel discussion on the USA Patriot Act during the organization’s 2004 convention, but that the transcript of that discussion was not being released because some panel members had not yet signed off on it.

“His role as a moderator was basically just to introduce people,” Mr. Meyer said.

During the 1997 speech, Judge Alito, then a member of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said the best way to prevent unethical behavior by lawyers “is by formulating and firmly enforcing sound rules governing the behavior of lawyers in court proceedings.”

Suggesting some existing ethics rules were inadequate, he cited the debate over the “mandatory disclosure” rule set by bar associations, which says a lawyer may — not must — reveal confidential information obtained from a client if it is necessary to prevent the client from committing a crime the lawyer believes will likely result in imminent death or serious bodily injury.

“The lawyer is not required to make disclosure,” Judge Alito said. “Thus, if I were a criminal defense attorney and a client told me that he was planning to kill someone or to bomb an office building or airliner, I would not be under an ethical obligation to disclose that information, although I would be permitted to do so.

“This seems to me to be an extension of the gladiatorial role far beyond reasonable bounds,” he said.

Founded in 1982 by Harvard, Stanford, Yale and University of Chicago law students, the society is perhaps the nation’s most influential legal group of conservatives and libertarians. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony M. Kennedy have close ties, as did Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

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