by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Justice Samuel Alito has drawn attention for his fiery criticism of Supreme Court rulings, with some court watchers especially struck by the degree of barely concealed hostility he directed at fellow conservative justices.
Alito voiced opposition last week as the court, now with six conservative justices and three liberals, handed a narrow win to a Catholic charity and spared ObamaCare from a GOP challenge. The two decisions signaled the court may not be moving as far or as fast to the right as some expected.
“My guess is that he’s frustrated with what appear to be political compromises to reach these results, and that he’d prefer the court, or at least his fellow conservatives, to be as full-throated dogmatic as he is,” said Steve Schwinn, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“We’ve seen flashes of this from him before,” Schwinn said, referring to the tone and tenor of Alito’s writing. “The only difference — if there is one — is that it’s at a higher volume.”
The Supreme Court is nearing the end of its first term with former President Trump’s nominees comprising three of the nine justices, including its newest member, Amy Coney Barrett. The justices still have yet to decide eight cases, including a major voting rights dispute, which could produce a resounding win for conservatives — and next term could see watershed rulings for the right on everything from abortion to gun rights.
Yet so far, despite its 6-3 conservative majority, the court has charted an incremental course, falling short of the dramatic rightward tilt that hard-right conservatives had hoped for. …
… Alito blasted the majority for declining to replace the court’s landmark 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith with a more robust approach to religious liberty claims.