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Samuel Alito on Government Reform

Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. George W. Bush 2005)


Over-reaching by Court undermines respect for law

SEN. SESSIONS: I asked Chief Justice Roberts about activism by the court, overreaching by the court, and he felt that this overreaching created a danger that it could undermine respect for law in our country. Do you share that view?

ALITO: I agree that overreaching by the courts can undermine respect for law. Nobody elects us. Our job is to interpret the Constitution, it has a meaning, and you apply it to the situations that come up.

SESSIONS: I feel that the court on some very important issues is exceeding its authority. People are calling on me and those of us in Congress to do something about it.

ALITO: I think your policy views are much more legitimate than the policy views of the judiciary because members of Congress are elected for the purpose of formulating and implementing public policy and members of the judiciary are appointed for the purpose of interpreting and applying the law.

Source: Sam Alito Senate Confirmation Hearings , Jan 11, 2006

No one is above the law and no one is beneath the law

SEN. GRASSLEY: Judge Alito, in your opening statement you said -- and I hope I quote you accurately -- ďNo person in this country, no matter how high or powerful, is above the law, and no person in this country is beneath the law.Ē You didnít go into detail about what you meant. I think itís quite clear above the law. But give us that diverse opinion, above the law versus beneath the law.

ALITO: Every person has equal rights under the law in this country, and that involves includes people have no money, that includes people who do not hold any higher or prestigious position, it includes people who are citizens and people who are not citiz

Source: Sam Alito Senate Confirmation Hearings , Jan 11, 2006

Supports one-person-one-vote within a deviation of 10%

GRASSLEY: Youíve been criticized for being hostile to voting rights based upon a 1985 statement regarding the electoral reapportionment, that is how districts are drawn. They suggested that youíre hostile to the principle of one person, one vote. Nowhere in your Ď85 statement did you write that you ever disagreed with the principle of one person, one vote. Did you?

ALITO: I never disagreed with that principle, Senator. My fatherís work with the N.J. legislature [attempted to] bring it into compliance with the one person, one vote standard. These provisions, however, because they tried to respect county and municipal lines, resulted in population deviations of under 10 percent, but those deviations were much higher than the ones that the Supreme Court said would be tolerated. It seemed to me an instance of taking a good principle, which is one person, one vote, and taking it to extremes, requiring that districts be exactly equal in population, which did not seem to me to be a sensible idea.

Source: Sam Alito Senate Confirmation Hearings , Jan 11, 2006

Supports stare decisis--following prior precedents

I think the doctrine of stare decisis is a very important doctrine. Itís a fundamental part of our legal system. Itís the principle that courts in general should follow their past precedents. And itís important for a variety of reasons. Itís important because it limits the power of the judiciary. And itís important because it reflects the view that courts should respect the judgments and the wisdom that are embodied in prior judicial decisions.
Source: Sam Alito Senate Confirmation Hearings , Jan 10, 2006

Executive power issues are not often resolved by the court

The President has to follow the Constitution and the laws. And, in fact, one of the most solemn responsibilities of the President--and itís set out expressly in the Constitution--is that the President is to take care that the laws are faithfully executed and that means the Constitution. It means statutes. It means treaties. It means all of the laws of the US. But what I am saying is that sometimes issues of executive power arise, and they have to be analyzed under the framework that Justice [Robert] Jackson set out. And you do get cases that are in this twilight zone, and they have to be decided when they come up based on the specifics of the situation. Youíd have to look at the specifics of the situation. These are the gravest sort of constitutional questions that come up. And very often there they donít make their way to the judiciary or theyíre not resolved by the judiciary; theyíre resolved by the other branches of the government.
Source: Sam Alito Senate Confirmation Hearings , Jan 10, 2006

Constitution is a living thing, with unchanging principles

The Constitution is a living thing in the sense that matters--that it sets up a framework of government and a protection of fundamental rights that we have lived under very successfully for 200 years. And the genius of it is that it is not terribly specific on certain things. Some things are very specific, but it sets out some general principles and then leaves it for each generation to apply those to the particular factual situations that come up. The liberty component of the Fifth Amendment and the 14th Amendment embody the deeply rooted traditions of a country. Those traditions and those rights apply to new factual situations that come up. As times change, new factual situations come up, and the principles have to be applied to those situations.

The principles donít change. The Constitution itself doesnít change. But the factual situations change. And, as new situations come up, the principles and the rights have to be applied to them.

Source: Sam Alito Senate Confirmation Hearings , Jan 10, 2006

Courts play limited role in Constitutional system

Alito says, ďFederal judges have the duty to interpret the Constitution and the laws faithfully and fairly, to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and to do these things with care and with restraint, always keeping in mind the limited role that the courts play in our constitutional system.Ē
Source: Peter Baker, Washington Post , Nov 1, 2005

Supremacy of elected branches over judicial usurpation

I believe very strongly in the supremacy of the elected branches of government. I disagree strenuously with the usurpation by the judiciary of decision-making authority that should be exercised by the branches of government responsible to the electorate. The [Reagan] Administration has already made major strides toward reversing this trend through its judicial appointments, litigation, and public debate, and it is my hope that even greater advances can be achieved during the second term.
Source: Alitoís application for Deputy Assistant Attorney General , Nov 15, 1985

Public campaign finance can't be based on opponent spending.

Justice Alito joined the Court's decision on AZ FREEDOM CLUB PAC v. BENNETT on Jun 27, 2011:

An Arizona public campaign financing law allowed a person who agreed to the restrictions of a publicly financed campaign to receive an initial allotment from the state. That initial allotment was increased when the spending of a privately financed opponent together with the spending of any independent group exceeded that initial allotment. The public funds to match opponent expenditures topped out at two times the initial allotment.

HELD: Delivered by Roberts; joined by Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas & Alito

Arizona's public financing law places a burden on privately financed candidates. If privately financed candidates spend money above a certain level, they necessarily entitle their publicly financed opponents to greater funding. Their First Amendment right to free speech in a political matter--which includes spending money on their campaigns--is inhibited. Independent groups do not qualify for public financing at all, but their spending still may lead to a funding increase for the candidates the independent groups oppose. Leveling the playing is not a compelling state interest justifying a burden on a First Amendment right, nor is combating corruption. Arizona would be free to give the maximum amount to all public candidates, but that does not justify inhibiting the free speech of candidates and independent groups.

DISSENT: Kagan dissents; joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor

The First Amendment's core purpose is to foster a political system full of robust discussion and debate. Arizona's public campaign finance did not restrict speech, it increased speech through public subsidy with the goal of decreasing the corruption of both quid pro quo campaign payments made in exchange for official acts or an office seeker feeling beholden to his great financial supporters. Any burden on free speech, the burden could hardly be more substantial than what the Court announces would be legal: a larger, up-front allotment to a public candida
Source: Supreme Court case 11-AZ-PAC argued on Mar 28, 2011

Other Justices on Government Reform: Samuel Alito on other issues:
Samuel Alito
Stephen Breyer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Elena Kagan
Anthony Kennedy
John Roberts
Antonin Scalia
Sonia Sotomayor
Clarence Thomas

Former Justices:
David Souter
Sandra Day O'Connor
William Rehnquist
John Paul Stevens

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Page last updated: Jul 11, 2013