Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano receives award from St. Barnabas Charities
Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, a best-selling author and senior judicial analyst for Fox News, was honored Thursday night with the St. Barnabas Hance Award during the health system's 118th annual Founder's Day celebration.
A graduate of Princeton University and the Notre Dame Law School, Napolitano rose through the judicial ranks from his first post as a small claims court judge in Hackensack, N.J., where they "start you off with the easy cases" to become the youngest life-tenured Superior Court judge in that state's history.
The author of nine books on the United States Constitution — including two on the New York Times Best Seller list — Napolitano's wit was on display as he recounted a series of stories and "inside" anecdotes gathered during the two decades working for Fox News to the nearly 500 people attending the event at the Marriott Pittsburgh North hotel in Cranberry.
"I'm personally responsible for the election of George W. Bush," he said in reference to legal opinion he presented on air about the Florida election recount for the 2000 presidential race between Bush and Vice President Al Gore.
In the moments after, a breaking news alert revealed that Bush's lawyers planned to challenge a decision by the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Florida that a recount of all 72 counties in the state would be conducted.
"The host turned to me and asked: 'What do you think about that judge?'" Napolitano said.
The judge responded that the 11th Circuit lacked jurisdiction in the case and noted that while the Supreme Court offices were closed for the day "the circuit justice is Anthony Kennedy."
"I said Bush's attorneys should get in their cars and go to Georgetown and knock on his (Kennedy's) door and present him with a petition," Napolitano said, noting that the news station later announced that Bush campaign lawyers, in fact, were spotted in Georgetown and that the petition they presented to Kennedy "automatically stopped the decision of the Florida court."
"That was followed by the host looking straight into the camera and saying: 'George W. Bush is watching Fox and he's getting his legal advice from judge Napolitano.' And the rest is history."
With several detailed stories of the struggles the nation's Founding Fathers faced in developing the Constitution, Napolitano concluded his nearly one-hour speech by issuing a warning about the over-reach of government.
"I believe we are in for bad times," he said. "I believe we are suffering a great inversion of what (James) Madison gave us. Madison gave us a citizenry that was free and a government to which we delegated powers. If the government wanted to do something, it had to ask us.
"Today, we have a government that thinks its free to do whatever it wants," Napolitano said. "And we need its permission before we can do what we want. If we don't reverse that, we are in for dark times."
The Hance award, which is named for St. Barnabas founder Gouverneur Provoost Hance, has been presented to a roster of Founders Day speakers including President Gerald Ford, First Lady Barbara Bush, actors Charlton Heston and Debbie Reynolds, Fred Rogers and Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
Money raised from the event helps pay for the $7 million in free care St. Barnabas provides each year.
Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.