Quality Over Ideology

Alito’s conservatism should not bar him from serving on the Supreme Court

Behind the staff’s sophistry lies the belief that conservatism qua conservatism disqualifies a Supreme Court nominee. We disagree and believe that Samuel Alito is an eminently qualified judge who deserves a quick confirmation by the Senate.

Unlike Harriet Miers, Alito boasts an impeccable résumé. A graduate of Princeton and Yale Law School, Alito spent the early part of his career working in prestigious positions within the Justice Department. Nominated to the federal bench in 1990, he secured unanimous confirmation from the Senate. Since then he has accumulated more experience in the federal judiciary than any other Supreme Court nominee in 70 years. Present and former colleagues of all political persuasions have been quick to praise Alito as an impartial, meticulous, and talented jurist.

What, then, has changed since 1990, when Alito was unanimously confirmed by the Senate? Our colleagues argue that his subsequent judicial record displays alarming right-wing tendencies. The staff’s portrait of Alito, however, bears no resemblance to reality—Alito’s decisions have been anything but dogmatically conservative—and, moreover, conservative values hardly disqualify one from sitting on the Supreme Court.

In college, Alito led a conference advocating the legalization of sodomy decades before the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas finally struck down government intrusions into sexual privacy. In his subsequent judicial career, he has often taken similarly progressive stances. Overturning a district court decision in Saxe v. State College Area School District, Alito boldly defended the students’ first amendment rights in non-school-sponsored speech. In Williams v. Price, he granted a writ of habeas corpus to a black prisoner when a juror made a racist remark after the trial, which emphasized the Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury. Alito also authored a unanimous decision in Police v. City of Newark, ruling against a law that require police officers to shave their beards, because such laws violate officers’ civil liberties.

Then, of course, there is the abortion-rights litmus test. Despite the shrill cries of the left-wing Cassandras—who have rushed to condemn Alito as a fire-breathing Roe-overturning conservative—he has a decidedly nuanced record. In his four abortion-related cases, he has ruled in favor of abortion rights three times. Even in the exception, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Alito merely ruled that spousal notification was not an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to an abortion, given that the law provided exemptions for unusual cases such as domestic abuse.

In short, Alito is a moderate, balanced, and thoughtful conservative. Furthermore, although we may disagree with some of his decisions, we believe that there is a difference between constitutional interpretation and policymaking. When we vote for our legislators, we vote for policies. But when we evaluate judges, we should consider only their ability to apply a fair and consistent standard of constitutional interpretation, even if it produces effects that we dislike. Alito’s record proves that he is an impartial and qualified jurist with a judicial philosophy that is well within the mainstream of modern jurisprudence. These are the only criteria that that should concern us.

Last December, Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid, commenting on the possibility of Antonin Scalia becoming the Chief Justice, said, “I disagree with many of the results that he arrives at, but his reason for arriving at those results are [sic] very hard to dispute.” Amen. The staff editorial is based not on considerations of jurisprudence but on naked political considerations, and, given his impressive credentials and capabilities, we wish Alito a quick confirmation.



Piotr C. Brzezinski ’07 is a Social Studies concentrator in Winthrop House. Nikhil G. Mathews ’08 is a government concentrator in Mather House. Andrew M. Trombly ’08 is a philosophy concentrator in Eliot House. All of the writers are Crimson editorial editors.



ABOUT DISSENTING OPINIONS

Occasionally, Crimson editors disagree fundamentally about an issue. In these cases, the minority side is given a chance to represent their perspective in a dissenting opinion. These pieces are signed by the dissenting editors in order to differentiate them from staff opinion, which represents the majority position of the voting Crimson Staff.