Yesterday I posted some thoughts on Third Circuit nominee Stephanos Bibas as his Senate hearing approaches, the latest of many posts on him here. [UPDATE: the hearing has happened, and I posted my initial thoughts on it here.] If there was a theme to my four comments, I suppose it was ‘liberals, don’t panic.’
Today, one more (last?) overarching thought before the hearing: while we know a staggering amount about Bibas’s views on criminal-justice issues, we know surprisingly little about his views beyond his professional focus.
What we do know about his views on other issues is intriguing, ambiguous, and very far from definitive:
- He has described himself as a conservative;
- He grew up in New York City. His father was a Greek immigrant who owned restaurants. Bibas and his wife Juliana have four children. He is a devout Christian who is active in the Orthodox Church. He was “raised Orthodox, but didn’t get serious about it until he was in his late 20s.” His wife has a masters in European History, wrote a novel, and is a prolific (and amazing) blogger.
- His only political contributions have been to Republicans — Bob Dole in 1996, Mitt Romney in 2012, and Pat Toomey;
- His closest professional associates appear moderate-to-liberal, especially on gun control
- His Supreme Court clinic cases have trended liberal;
- His respectful 2016 remembrance of Justice Scalia for the Heritage Foundation emphasized Scalia’s liberal rulings and noted, “I have given him two cheers, not three, criticizing his formalism as sometimes too rigid and impractical and his originalism as stretching beyond its textual and historical foundations.”
- A junior professor who worked closely with him wrote a letter in support of his nomination which noted that, no one had been more empathic to her as a gay woman than Bibas and every career conversation they had began and ended with her wife and daughter;
- The former dean of students at Penn Law wrote in support, “as gay men, my husband and I have always found Stephanos to be warmly supportive of our relationship and marriage. On several occasions Stephanos and I have spoken about evolving LGBT history and issues. These are issues with which he has shown no personal or academic discomfort.”
- His nomination has been publicly supported by many committed liberals, including David Rudovsky, Barry Scheck, and Akhil Amar;
- He was chosen through a process reportedly driven by two conservative groups, Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation; and
- Many committed conservatives have spoken rapturously of his nomination, including Carrie Severino (“fantastic,” “another major victory“), Jonathan Adler (“incredibly strong,”), and Robert George (” a terrific choice“), and a reportedly Koch Brothers-funded group ran ads supporting his nomination.
Such are the tea leaves I’ve found — make of them what you will.