Thursday, February 02, 2006

Slam Dunk?

Just one day on the bench and newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito got a chance to rule on his first case - a chance to show what he's made of.

How did he do?

He ruled with Anthony Kennedy and the four liberal judges in opposition to conservative justices Roberts, Thomas and Scalia.


Those who are Alito supporters will say this proves he is a man not resigned to an "ultra-conservative" agenda. Those who are ultra-conservative will say he obviously was being overly cautious in his first day on the job. And those who are cynical will say that his ruling in this case, which is of no significant consequence, was probably done intentionally to squelch continued discussion and let him quietly begin his conservative march without anyone paying too much attention.

There is some truth in all of those statements. He did in fact not just fall in line with the conservative justices. That may indicate that he at least isn't a total "Yes-man." It also was his first day, and he truly may have wanted to err on the "safe" side (but he does have 15 years of experience as a federal judge, so the notion that he was somehow "nervous" doesn't appear to hold much water). And, while it's true the case may have no constitutional consequence, it was pretty important to the individual whose execution was stayed.

So, maybe there was thought put into this decision, or maybe it was just the "easy" one to make. I really don't think we can decide if this provides any indication as to the future direction of Justice Alito's leanings.

But one thing does seem to be certain. As of this particular mooment in time, no one, conservative or liberal, can now say they know exactly how Sam Alito will rule. Maybe that will change.

We'll all have to wait and see.



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