The Supreme Court Shortlist
The views of the likely candidates.
Updated Friday, July 1, 2005, at 11:34 AM
For a unanimous panel, reversed a decision of the district court finding that a police officer convicted of civil rights violation, for hitting a drunk suspect in the head with his baton, was entitled to a new trial because his lawyer was ineffective. The officer argued that his lawyer erred by failing to call character witnesses to rebut testimony that he'd complained about the need to control Mexicans in the United States. Clement said the rebuttal evidence would have been irrelevant because the officer was not charged with a hate crime. (U.S. v. Harris, 2005)
Over a partial dissent, in reviewing a jury verdict in favor of a man whose wife and 3-year-old daughter were killed in a car crash, affirmed damage awards of $1.9 million for the man's loss of his wife and $1.5 million for the loss of his daughter. Reduced from $200,000 to $30,000 an award to the wife's estate for her pain and mental anguish before her death and eliminated a $200,000 award to the daughter's estate for her pain and mental anguish. (Vogler v. Blackmore, 2003)
Age: 55 Graduated from: Yale Law School. He clerked for: Judge Leonard Garth. He used to be: deputy assistant attorney general under Reagan, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. He's now: a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit (appointed 1990).
His confirmation battle: Alito has the Scalia-esque nickname "Little Nino" and the Italian background to match it. As the author of a widely noted dissent urging his court to uphold restrictions on abortion that the Supreme Court then struck down, in a decision that reaffirmed Roe v. Wade,Alito could be especially filibuster-prone. Like Scalia, he frequently makes his mark in dissent.
Separation of Church and State
For a unanimous panel, upheld a lower-court order requiring a school district to allow a Bible-study group to set up an information table at an elementary-school back-to-school night. Reasoned that by preventing the group from displaying its literature, the district was discriminating on the basis of viewpoint. (Child Evangelism Fellowship of N.J., Inc. v. Stafford Township School District, 2004)
For a unanimous panel, denied standing to a group seeking to take down a municipal holiday display that included a menorah and a crèche. Alito said that the group couldn't challenge the display as taxpayers because the items were donated rather than bought by the town. (ACLU-NJ v. Township of Wall, 2001)
Dissented from a ruling by the 3rd Circuit as a whole that an elementary school did not violate the First Amendment rights of a kindergartener by taking down (and then putting back up) a Thanksgiving poster he'd made that said the thing he was most thankful for was Jesus. The majority decided to throw out the case on a technicality; Alito protested that the child's claim should go forward. (C.H. v. Oliva, 2000)
Allowed a federal probation office in Delaware to condition the release of a man who had pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography on his willingness to submit to random polygraph tests about whether he'd had impermissible contact with children. (United States v. Warren, 2003)
Dissented from a refusal to grant police officers immunity from a civil suit brought by a mother and her 10-year-old daughter who'd each been strip-searched because they lived in the home of a suspected drug dealer. Alito felt the police had behaved reasonably because the warrant led them to conclude that there was probable cause to search everyone in the house for drugs. (Doe v. Groody, 2004)
Granted the habeas claim of an African-American defendant who sought to introduce evidence that a juror made a racist remark after the jury reached its verdict. (Williams v. Price, 2003)
David Newman is a contributing editor at Legal Affairs.
Emily Bazelon is a Slate senior editor and writes about law, family, and kids. Her forthcoming book, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Empathy and Character. Find her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook or Twitter.
Photographs of: Michael J. Luttig courtesy of Michael J. Luttig; John Roberts by Mark Wilson/Newsmakers; Emilio Garza courtesy of Emilio Garza and the United States Courts 5th Judicial Circuit; Michael McConnell courtesy of the United States Courts 10th Judicial Circuit; Alberto Gonzales by Joe Raedle/Getty Images; J. Harvie Wilkinson III courtesy of J. Harvie Wilkinson III; Edith Brown Clement courtesy Edith Brown Clement and the United States Courts 5th Judicial Circuit; Samuel Alito courtesy of Samuel Alito. Photograph of the Supreme Court chambers on the Slate home page by Dennis Brack.