Special to Kalamalama by Mel Masuda J.D., M.P.A., associate
professor of law and public administration
|As soon as his nomination was announced
(it was Halloween, and some liberals no doubt thought it was
a trick on “trick-or-treat day”), the national media
began investigating Alito’s background. USA Today uncovered
his Princeton yearbook and published excerpts from it that brought
back a flood of memories.
Princeton does not—and will never have—a law school.
Princeton’s board of trustees decided long ago that its
resources would be wasted if Princeton tried to create another
law school to join the 250 accredited law schools already in
existence. So, those of us at Princeton who wanted to go on to
law school and who were fortunate enough to score well on the
Law School Admission Test (LSAT) had a choice between Yale and
Harvard law schools. Even today, almost a generation later, Princeton
seniors choose Yale Law School by a margin of 4 to 1.
The principal reason is that Yale Law has no required attendance
rule for classes. You can cut classes all semester and just show
up for the midterm exam and the final. Also, Yale Law is small
and personal. It is for the latter reason—the personal
attention which you can get if you want it—that Yale Law
has ranked No. 1 over all the years that U.S. News & World
Report has been ranking all 250 U.S. schools of law.
Yale Law is four times smaller than Harvard Law, with only 140
students in the entering class. Everyone gets to know everyone
else, which can lead to somewhat embarrassing moments. For example,
when Yale Law graduate Clarence Thomas went through his confirmation
hearings before the Senate in 1991, Thomas had to admit on the
record what FBI investigators had uncovered from interviewing
his Yale Law classmates during a background check. He had to
admit—embarrassingly—that, because Yale Law has no
required attendance rule, he spent most of his time at Yale Law
not going to class but instead watching porn movies at a nearby
theater. Of course, Thomas asserted that he had changed his ways,
and the Senate must have believed him: he was confirmed 53 to
Another memory: At Princeton, as a senior, for a yearbook called
the Nassau Herald, students get to write, in the third person,
a short synopsis of their background and accomplishments at Princeton.
USA Today tracked down what Judge Alito had written in his synopsis.
It’s hard to tell whether he was being serious or was kidding
when he wrote the now-prophetic words: “Sam intends to
go to law school and eventually to warm a seat on the Supreme