Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Italian American Justices

Thanks again to Opinio Juris for posting a very interesting comment on Judge Alito's dissertation about the Italian Constitutional Court.

Alito, as Justice Scalia, is an Italian American; it is interesting to witness the rise of Italian Americans to one of the most powerful institutions in America. After all, when Italian first arrived in the States, they were probably as poor as north african are nowadays in France. Also they came from a catholic background in a country where the ruling elite was protestant.

For an Italian like me, it is also fascinating to observe the social trajectory of Italian emigrants, partly because I am an Italian expat myself. When you talk to Italian Americans, you realize that they are neither Italians, nor Americans. They are more Italian than Italians and more American than Americans.

My main worry concerning Alito's italianness regards his attention to the Vatican's opinion. In his dissertation he quotes at lenght from Civilta' Cattolica, a reading that only Italian Catholic extremists would enjoy. The Vatican nowadays has a very aggressive politics concerning sexual morality; this is probably an important common trait between Wojtila and Ratzinger. It would be regrettable if Alito got inspiration from those views.

Back then, funnily enough, the Vatican criticised progressive judicial activism, by putting forward an italian version of 'originalism', when interpreting the constitution:

We should ask if this is what the Italian people, who had just regained their liberty, desired when ... they established that the new Constitution would be protected against Parliamentary violation by a supreme and impartial organ of Constitutional justice.... We should ask at the same time whether these eminent men, when they occupied university chairs or sat on an ordinary court, instead of applying and teaching 'the same law for all,' taught or applied above all the political ideas of the party or fraction of a party to which they belonged

Fascinating! Conservative are similar both sides of the Atlantic. Especially when it comes to the philosophy of interpretation of the Constitution. It is hard to buy this argument; if the italian constitutional court played today a more aggressive catholic interpretation, I am sure the Vatican would be delighted about that judicial activism.

It is to be hoped that Alito is above all that. But I doubt it.

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