Alito's Senior Thesis Emerges:
According to the Daily Princetonian, Alito's senior thesis advisor Walter Murphy found his copy of Alito's college thesis and is making it available to the press. Soon the world will finally know what Alito thought about the Italian Constitutional Court back in the early 1970s, before Alito went to law school, closing the controversial gap in the Alito paper trail. Hat tip: Mr. Bashman.
I'm still waiting for the kidney bean pencil holder he made in kindergarten.
11.8.2005 10:21am
Michael Patrick Gibson (mail):
That last quote at the end of the Princetonian article about Clarence Thomas' IQ ought to raise an eye-brow. Is his IQ low because he's a strict constructionist? Or is it for some other insidious reason that Prof. Murphy declines to assert directly?
11.8.2005 10:22am
Phil (mail):
My seven year old daughter just wrote me a letter conserning her safety concerns about sledding in Europe. I guess I should save it just in case. She did, after all, misspell the word curious ("curios").
11.8.2005 10:40am
alkali (mail) (www):
I'm still waiting for the kidney bean pencil holder he made in kindergarten.

Does it slant to the right, or the left? Inquiring minds want to know.
11.8.2005 10:42am
Robert Schwartz (mail):
The politics of personal destruction have jumped the rails and turned into a satire of itself.
11.8.2005 12:19pm

I wondered the same thing - how does Professor Murphy have access to the IQ tests of Alito and Thomas?
11.8.2005 1:32pm
Victoria (mail) (www):
That last quote at the end of the Princetonian article about Clarence Thomas' IQ ought to raise an eye-brow. Is his IQ low because he's a strict constructionist? Or is it for some other insidious reason that Prof. Murphy declines to assert directly?

I, too, thought that was awful, and a slur on Judge Scalia's character also didn't go unremarked...

It's one thing to disagree about a person's world view, or specific matters related to a shared profession.

It's quite another kettle of fish to slam someone's intellect, and consequently, their competence.

That's nothing new under the sun, but Professor Murphy, in trying to bend over too much on his ex-pupil's behalf, may have inadvertently caused him a harm, if word gets back to Clarence Thomas about what he said.

Those SCOTUS water cooler pregnant pauses can be mighty awkward.

11.8.2005 1:51pm
Victoria (mail) (www):
"He is much more an Anti-federalist where state and national authority clash, more libertarian on issues such as gun control, and much tighter on some matters as the rights of the criminally accused than I," Murphy said in an earlier email message.

The key paragraph.

Professor Murphy is waaaay too chatty about his ex-pupil, as many retired professors tend to be, when out of the glaring klieg lights of the classroom.

P.S.: Making the thesis available is indiscrete. I wonder, is it known if Alito got a phone call or SOMETHING for his input on the matter? I wouldn't like it if my ex-committee professor did that, about my own thesis at Magdalen. It's not about the quality, presumed or otherwise. It's about the eager indiscretion exhibited.

11.8.2005 1:57pm
Nunzio (mail):
I smell a possible copyright infringement suit, as well as a possible FERPA violation against Prof. Murphy. Of course, my I.Q. is not that high, so I could be wrong.
11.8.2005 2:07pm
Visitor Again:
If Murphy were savvy, he would have called Alito first to ask his permission to release the thesis. If the answer was yes, go ahead, then fine. If the answer was no, then Murphy or someone else have leakd to the press that Murphy had a copy of the thesis but that Alito had refused permission to r4lease it. The resulting uproar would have forced Alito to back down and give permission within 24 hours.

Perhaps Murphy did do the above and got permission. Who knows?

The point is that a Supreme Court mominee is in poor position to withhold his senior thesis from public view.
11.8.2005 2:39pm
Visitor Again:
have leakd = would have leaked

11.8.2005 2:40pm
Alex R (mail):
Why would anyone think that Alito's senior thesis would *not* be publicly available? I didn't write a senior thesis, but I did write a Ph.D. dissertation, which by the policy of my University is available in their library (and at UMI). It wouldn't surprise me in the least if even the senior theses were so available at a snooty school like Princeton... The quote from the original article ("He wrote his senior thesis, which is missing from University archives, on the Italian Constitutional Court.") supports this suggestion -- why would it refer to his thesis as "missing from the University archives" if such theses were not generally available in the archives?
11.8.2005 3:29pm
H. Tuttle:
Who really cares what his senior thesis said? For the love of God is there no decency left? Now papers written 20, 30, 40 years ago, with no look ahead toward forensic exegesis by future axe-grinders, are prime fodder for partisan forces. It no doubt will make any prospective candiate, or even wishful candidate, for higher anything seriously consider sticking to 100% oral communications for near everything.
11.8.2005 3:30pm
Visitor Again:
Oh, I dunno, between 30 and 40 years ago I wrote and said some leftist political stuff that would get me dumped from consideration for any public position, including dogcatcher, in about a minute flat. A lot of it I still subscribe to, although I am much more quiet about it these days and certainly would put it more delicately.

Senator Black's early membership in the Ku Klux Klan was grist for the mill when he was nominated to the Court. If Alito praised Mussolini's fascism 30 years ago, I think the public is entitled to have it out in the open and to get reassurance that was a passing phase in his intellectual development.

I think the point about Murphy is not that he released a document which Alito was entitled to keep confidential or that any rule or practice required Murphy to ask permission of Alito before releasing the document. Rather, it is merely that asking former student Alito's permission would have been the decent thing for a former faculty adviser to do precisely because the thing is in fact not otherwise publicly available and because Alito is up for appointment to an important post. Faculty advisor is a position of trust, it seems to me.
11.8.2005 4:16pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Yes, Prof. Murphy's IQ comment is a bizarre and inappropriate insult. Note also the correction. The story originally had this paragraph:
Murphy said he and Alito agree that the 1973 landmark abortion-rights case Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.
My guess is that Prof. Murphy changed his story when he realized that he could get quizzed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. If they asked about his IQ theories, it could get embarrassing.
11.8.2005 4:59pm
Boy, them Princeton purfessors emeriti is smart! They even knows the IQ of people that they never had in school or nothin'.

Wish I'd gone there, 'stead of Chicago. They didn't learn us how to know IQ's and stuff.
11.8.2005 5:19pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I don't know about Princeton, but there is a difference in how dissertations, etc. are handled at the different levels. At least in patent law, PhD theses are presumptively considered "prior art" as they are invariably officially published, though often just to the extent of being indexed and made available at the school library. Master's theses are problematic, usually not considered "prior art", but that presumption can be overcome with evidence of pubication. And bachelor level papers are invariably not considered such.

Which gets into the copyright issue. The sort of publication done for PhD dissertations provides some sort of nonexclusive, partial, copyright license. You can probably cite or quote from them to your heart's content, esp. in other scholorly papers, but may not be able to legally bind them up and sell them in a book. The license being, of course, the amount of copying that a PhD applicant can realistically and historically expect, given the way that PhD dissertations are typically published. Since master's level and undergraduate theses are not typically "published", there is no reasonable expectation that they will be available to the public, and, thus, no copyright license.
11.8.2005 11:01pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Whoops. My in my previous take on copyright, I forgot one important facet - that his undergraduate thesis was most likely an unpublished work under the 1909 Copyright Act, and not subject to either the 1976 Act (effective in 1978), or Berne, a decade later. So, my take would have been accurate if he had graduated in, say, 1990, but not back when he actually did.
11.8.2005 11:06pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Sorry, one more copyright post. It turns out that the creation date really doesn't change things. I did a bit more research (as I usually don't deal with this area of copyright law). And in a table at the Cornell web site, it appears that the copyright on his undergraduate thesis is Judge Alito's life+70 years, assuming that it was technically "unpublished" until now. However, if it had been published, with notice (required under the 1909 Act), it would probably be expired now, unless renewed.

My mistake was in forgetting how unpublished works were/are treated under the different copyright laws. Nowadays, there isn't much difference between published and unpublished, but that was not the case back then. And, surprisingly, unpublished works created before 1978 are in significantly better shape than are published works, given that publication started the 28+28 (if renewed) clock running.
11.8.2005 11:25pm
Mr. Anonymous:
I would check out for the latest on this ever-evolving account. After realizing his comments were getting wider circulation, Prof. Murphy may have actually falsely changed his account of Alito's take on Roe. The Princetonian shared with that Murphy never told the paper that Alito would uphold Roe.

I think the old prof in his "eager indiscretion" actually did reveals Alito's college views on Roe only to change it when, in his horror, the account got wider circulation ...
11.11.2005 3:39pm