<![CDATA[Separated at the Bench – New York Times:
Yes, chances are that a Justice Alito will please conservatives more often than liberals. Doubtless, many liberals will anguish over Judge Alito’s opinion, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that would have upheld a law requiring that husbands be notified when their wives seek abortions. Still, they should give serious study to his record; they may discover that there are varieties of judicial conservatives, just as there are varieties of political conservatives, and that Samuel Alito is not Antonin Scalia.
There are, likewise, clues in Alito’s opinions that suggest a balanced, thoughtful, and independent–albeit still conservative–state of mind, as opposed to the arrogant activism that has become Scalia’s signature. In the 2003 case Williams v. Price, for example, Alito wrote the majority opinion overturning a lower court decision in which a convicted first-degree murderer was not permitted to call into question his verdict after a juror was heard making racist comments. This was a grisly murder and just the kind of annoying habeas petition that those of Scalia’s ilk think clog the judicial system. To his credit, Alito authored the opinion that provided for a new hearing.
Samuel Alito is clearly not a bleeding-heart liberal; but neither is he a caustic conservative. To be sure, he will not be the next Blackmun. But neither will he be the next Scalia.
I’m less and less concerned about Alito, who may be conservative but is clearly thoughtful. We have to get a sense of his willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade and key elements of regulatory law, and the Miers debacle gave Democrats the right to ask these questions, as Republicans didn’t hesitate to ask when they had their doubts. It’s not “political,” it’s politically important to ask.