Your witness, senators.

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Jan. 9 2006 12:11 AM

Your Witness, Senators

Expert suggestions on cross-examining Sam Alito.

(Continued from Page 2)

Alternatively, since he would probably authorize me to conduct interrogations with a little more, shall we say, creativity, I might ask Alito what he intends to do with Roe—and then make him tell me.

Middle-school teacher Stephanie Tatel:

Ask questions you don't already know the answer to. If you don't know the answer, the student won't either, and they will be forced to think up something original.Also, we are taught to make it perfectly clear what the question is. If you ask four different questions rolled into one, you are giving the student the power to decide which of the questions, if any, to answer.

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An Ivy League law professor, who requests anonymity:

I would recommend focusing on specific cases from the past. And you could ask, if you were sitting on court during the original hearing of (Plessy, Brown, Roe v. Wade, take your pick) would you have voted with the majority? 

I'd start by asking about a slam-dunk opinion—such as Lopez—to get Alito to be willing to play the game. And then I would proceed to harder cases.

I'd also ask him to name three cases he would have dissented in; to name cases where he would have parted ways with Rehnquist, and Scalia. 

I'd also ask him a few questions that have clear answer: "Please describe for me the holding of Smith v. Jones. Please describe for me what the 23rd Amendment says."

I'd also ask him about how he and his clerks have divided work: "What proportion of the words of your opinions have you drafted, and what proportion have your clerks drafted?

I'd also ask him if he would be willing to sell any shares of stock that might cause him to recuse himself (and instead reinvest them in mutual funds that do not require recusal based on underlying investments). 

Ladies and gentlemen of the Senate: Start your engines. And think carefully about what Max Freedman recommends—you really can wait all day for a truthful answer.

Rachael Larimore is a Slate senior editor.

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate

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