Supreme Court

Great Supreme Court Web Sites

I recently found two great web sites that provide all sorts of interesting information about the Supreme Court. 

Oyez  includes the pending docket, recent news about the Court, a complete archive of all Supreme Court decisions, audio files of important oral arguments before the Court, in depth biographies of each justice, and a virtual tour of the courthouse.

And, transcripts of all Supreme Court oral arguments since October 2000 can be found here.

Alito Splits With Supreme Court Conservatives and Opposes Execution

I've been rendered speechless.  Here's the article in its entirety:

WASHINGTON - New Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito split with the court's conservatives Wednesday night, refusing to let Missouri execute a death-row inmate contesting lethal injection.

Alito, handling his first case, sided with inmate Michael Taylor, who had won a stay from an appeals court earlier in the evening. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas supported lifting the stay, but Alito joined the remaining five members in turning down Missouri's last-minute request to allow a midnight execution.

This perplexes me and flies in the face of everything I've read about Alito. Is Alito the next Souter?

UPDATE:  Here's a link to the Order.

Senators in Need of a Spine

An editorial from the New York Times published yesterday summarizes quite nicely the reasons for my strong opposition to Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court .  Here is the editorial, in its entirety:

Senators in Need of a Spine    

Published: January 26, 2006

Judge Samuel Alito Jr., whose entire history suggests that he holds extreme views about the expansive powers of the presidency and the limited role of Congress, will almost certainly be a Supreme Court justice soon. His elevation will come courtesy of a president whose grandiose vision of his own powers threatens to undermine the nation's basic philosophy of government — and a Senate that seems eager to cooperate by rolling over and playing dead.

It is hard to imagine a moment when it would be more appropriate for senators to fight for a principle. Even a losing battle would draw the public's attention to the import of this nomination.

At the Judiciary Committee hearings, the judge followed the well-worn path to confirmation, which has the nominee offer up only the most boring statements and unarguable truisms: the president is not above the law; diversity in college student bodies is a good thing. But in what he has said in the past, and what he refused to say in the hearings, Judge Alito raised warning flags that, in the current political context, cannot simply be shrugged away with a promise to fight again another day.

The Alito nomination has been discussed largely in the context of his opposition to abortion rights, and if the hearings provided any serious insight at all into the nominee's intentions, it was that he has never changed his early convictions on that point. The judge — who long maintained that Roe v. Wade should be overturned — ignored all the efforts by the Judiciary Committee's chairman, Arlen Specter, to get him to provide some cover for pro-choice senators who wanted to support the nomination. As it stands, it is indefensible for Mr. Specter or any other senator who has promised constituents to protect a woman's right to an abortion to turn around and hand Judge Alito a potent vote to undermine or even end it.

But portraying the Alito nomination as just another volley in the culture wars vastly underestimates its significance. The judge's record strongly suggests that he is an eager lieutenant in the ranks of the conservative theorists who ignore our system of checks and balances, elevating the presidency over everything else. He has expressed little enthusiasm for restrictions on presidential power and has espoused the peculiar argument that a president's intent in signing a bill is just as important as the intent of Congress in writing it. This would be worrisome at any time, but it takes on far more significance now, when the Bush administration seems determined to use the cover of the "war on terror" and presidential privilege to ignore every restraint, from the Constitution to Congressional demands for information.

There was nothing that Judge Alito said in his hearings that gave any comfort to those of us who wonder whether the new Roberts court will follow precedent and continue to affirm, for instance, that a man the president labels an "unlawful enemy combatant" has the basic right to challenge the government's ability to hold him in detention forever without explanation. His much-quoted statement that the president is not above the law is meaningless unless he also believes that the law requires the chief executive to defer to Congress and the courts.

Judge Alito's refusal to even pretend to sound like a moderate was telling because it would have cost him so little. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who was far more skillful at appearing mainstream at the hearings, has already given indications that whatever he said about the limits of executive power when he was questioned by the Senate has little practical impact on how he will rule now that he has a lifetime appointment.

Senate Democrats, who presented a united front against the nomination of Judge Alito in the Judiciary Committee, seem unwilling to risk the public criticism that might come with a filibuster — particularly since there is very little chance it would work. Judge Alito's supporters would almost certainly be able to muster the 60 senators necessary to put the nomination to a final vote.

A filibuster is a radical tool. It's easy to see why Democrats are frightened of it. But from our perspective, there are some things far more frightening. One of them is Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.

Let's hope the Democrats come through.  I'll be watching with bated breath.

Alito round up

Here's a round up of information available online regarding the divisive Supreme Court nominee, Judge Samuel Alito.

The following are links to in-depth analysis of Judge Alito's decisions on a variety of legal issues:

  • From First Amendment Center's web site, an online symposium on Alito's First Amendment decisions
  • From the Reporter's Committee for the Freedom of the Press web site, Alito's record on free press issues
  • Two articles on Alito's judicial stance on criminal issues, one from the Star Ledger and one from the National Law Journal
  • A summary of high profile cases with majority opinions and dissents from Findlaw

A summary of everything Alito-related, minus the kitchen sink, from the University of Michigan Law Library can be found here.

And, all of his published opinions are available here at askSam in a searchable format.