Meet Samuel Alito, the Most Important Conservative in America Today

Easy to forget but hard to ignore, the 64-year-old justice is leaving an indelible mark on the Supreme Court. And giving liberals a lot to complain about.

National Journal
Dustin Volz and Emma Roller
Dustin Volz Emma Roller
June 30, 2014, 9:31 a.m.

Su­preme Court Justice Samuel Alito en­raged lib­er­als twice on Monday, hand­ing down two po­ten­tially wide-reach­ing opin­ions that weakened Obama­care’s con­tra­cep­tion man­date and severely un­der­mined pub­lic uni­ons.

Alito is a re­li­able mem­ber of the Court’s con­ser­vat­ive flank, though he of­ten earns less at­ten­tion than his iras­cible coun­ter­part Ant­on­in Scalia, whose opin­ions are reg­u­larly dot­ted with sen­sa­tion­al rhet­or­ic­al flour­ishes that eas­ily seize me­dia at­ten­tion. Alito is less waffly than either Chief Justice John Roberts or the streaky, liber­tari­an-at-times An­thony Kennedy, and he doesn’t pos­sess any car­toon­ish idio­syn­crasies akin to the “dis­grace­ful si­lence” of Clar­ence Thomas, who for eight years and count­ing hasn’t asked a single ques­tion dur­ing an or­al ar­gu­ment.

Alito, an Itali­an-Amer­ic­an from New Jer­sey, can be easy to for­get. But as Monday again showed, his sig­ni­fic­ance on the Su­preme Court is real, and worth re­mem­ber­ing.

George W. Bush’s nom­in­a­tion of Alito in 2005 to re­place Sandra Day O’Con­nor (by then a swing vote) on the Su­preme Court may end up be­ing one of 43’s most long-last­ing and im­pact­ful de­cisions. Con­sider that in the last year alone, Alito has weighed in on is­sues as di­verse as same-sex mar­riage, vot­ing rights, uni­ons, and, of course, Obama­care. And in many of those cases, his was the de­cis­ive vote — though the vote did not al­ways work in his fa­vor.

Con­firmed on a 58-42 vote by the Sen­ate, Alito’s Re­pub­lic­an sup­port was near un­an­im­ous — and his op­pos­i­tion by Demo­crats al­most equally par­tis­an. His con­ser­vat­ive bona fides have promp­ted some to nick­name him “Scalito” (a play off of “Scalia” and “Alito”), and he’s done little on or off the bench to dis­pel such no­tions. Dur­ing the 2010 State of the Uni­on Ad­dress, Alito fam­ously mouthed “not true” when Pres­id­ent Obama con­demned the Court’s Cit­izens United rul­ing on cam­paign fin­ance. He’s been a scarce site at the an­nu­al speeches since.

Alito is also quickly be­com­ing a dirty name among pro­gress­ives, who view his ideo­logy as anti-wo­men. Last year he wrote the opin­ion for Vance v. Ball State Uni­versity, which made it more chal­len­ging for wo­men to sue em­ploy­ers for work­place har­ass­ment.

At 64, Alito, like his Bush-ap­poin­ted broth­er-in-arms Roberts, is a re­l­at­ively young mem­ber of the Court, and will likely serve for an­oth­er 20 years, bar­ring any health com­plic­a­tions. Lib­er­als, be­ware: Monday may just be a pre­view of what’s to come from Alito in the years ahead.

What We're Following See More »
WORDS AND PICTURES
White House Looks Back on bin Laden Mission
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
NO BATTLE OVER SEATTLE
SCOTUS Won’t Hear Appeal of Minimum-Wage Law
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a sweeping constitutional challenge to Seattle’s minimum wage law, in what could have been a test case for future legal attacks on similar measures across the country. In a one-line order, the justices declined to hear a case by the International Franchise Association and a group of Seattle franchisees, which had said in court papers that the city’s gradual wage increase to $15 discriminates against them in a way that violates the Constitution’s commerce clause."

Source:
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Sanders Looks to Right the Ship in Indiana
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

Hillary Clinton may have the Democratic nomination sewn up, but Bernie Sanders apparently isn't buying it. Buoyed by a poll showing them in a "virtual tie," Sanders is "holding three rallies on the final day before the state primary and hoping to pull off a win after a tough week of election losses and campaign layoffs." 

Source:
CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION IN JUNE
DC to Release Draft Constitution as Part of Statehood Push
4 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"The New Columbia Statehood Commission—composed of five District leaders including Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and D.C.'s congressional delegation—voted today to publicly release a draft of a new constitution for an eventual state next Friday, at the Lincoln Cottage." It's the first step in a statehood push this year that will include a constitutional convention in June and a referendum in November.

Source:
ALZHEIMER’S OUTCRY
Will Ferrell Bails on Reagan Movie
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

Amid outcry by President Reagan's children, actor Will Ferrell has pulled out of a movie that makes light of Reagan's Alzheimer's disease. A spokesperson for Ferrell said, “The ‘Reagan’ script is one of a number of scripts that had been submitted to Will Ferrell which he had considered. While it is by no means an ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project."

Source:
×