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This report puts special focus on the opinions that most clearly suggest how Judge Alito might discharge the duties of his office if he is confirmed as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Judge Alito himself graduated from Yale Law in 1975. The report summarizes its conclusions as follows:
Reproductive Rights: In one dissent, Judge Alito would have upheld a Pennsylvania law requiring a wife to notify her husband before having an abortion. The Supreme Court rejected his reasoning, finding that the law imposed an undue burden on the wife.
Procedural Fairness: When given latitude in cases involving individuals’ procedural rights, Judge Alito consistently has decided to limit access to courts, at times leaving litigants with fewer procedural options. He has construed narrowly the constitutional requirements that individuals receive notice and an opportunity to be heard before being deprived of their rights. He has strictly interpreted standing requirements and has limited causes of action. He also has been reluctant to review the actions of executive branch officials, making it more difficult for individuals to hold the government accountable for its actions. There is also evidence that Judge Alito gives some groups of litigants more leeway than others to pursue their claims.
Free Speech: Although Judge Alito has supported the free speech claims of business interests, government agents, and student groups, and has protected the press against libel claims, he has refused to extend this support to the claims of prisoners seeking access to newspapers and photographs of their families.
Immigration: While other appellate courts recently have criticized the Board of Immigration Appeals’ (BIA) failure to make reasonable decisions regarding the deportation or asylum claims of immigrants, Judge Alito was prepared to uphold the BIA’s decision to deport immigrants in seven of eight deportation decisions reviewed and to uphold the BIA’s decision in seven of nine asylum cases.
Law Enforcement: Judge Alito’s opinions reveal a willingness to defer to law enforcement officials in criminal cases and a lack of sensitivity to class-based disparities in the criminal justice system. There is some evidence that he may treat wealthy litigants differently. Even when he finds that a defendant’s rights have been violated, he consistently declines to provide a remedy. As a result he ruled for the government in almost every case reviewed.
Civil Rights: In the area of civil rights law, Judge Alito consistently has used procedural and evidentiary standards to rule against female, minority, age, and disability claimants. He has taken a markedly different approach to religious discrimination, ruling in favor of religious minorities in various contexts.
Workers’ Rights: In the related field of workers’ rights, Judge Alito consistently has sought to limit the scope and reach of statutes protecting workers’ rights and to raise the bar that employee plaintiffs must overcome to bring legal claims. While many of these cases involved technical procedural issues, Judge Alito’s opinions are consistent in outcome. The employee or union would have prevailed in only five of the 35 employment and labor opinions he wrote.
Environmental Law: When deciding environmental cases, Judge Alito tends to defer to regulatory agency decisions. He is reluctant to preempt state environmental laws and directives unless a federal statute is clear in its intent to achieve this effect.
The report also examines Judge Alito’s opinions on other issues, including copyright, bankruptcy, and tax law. In sum, our hope is that the analysis set forth in this document will help readers make an informed decision about the wisdom of appointing Judge Alito to the nation’s highest court.
Read the full report here (PDF)