Sunday, November 06, 2005

WaPo: Alito would likely maintain precedents, even on abortion

Alito Respectful of Precedent, Associates Say: "For 15 years as a federal appeals court judge, Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s job has been to follow the precedent of the Supreme Court. But if he is approved for the nation's highest court, he would not have to.

As one of the nine final arbiters of American law he could vote to overturn long-standing decisions on abortion, affirmative action and religion -- with nothing to stop him except stare decisis , the legal principle that, for the sake of stability, courts should generally avoid undoing their past rulings.

But Alito's associates and independent legal analysts who know his record say a Justice Alito would be reluctant to use that power, even in such areas as abortion, in which the court's past rulings are most controversial.

'If he learned anything from me, he learned the value of stare decisis ,' said Judge Leonard I. Garth, a Nixon appointee on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit for whom Alito, 55, served as a law clerk in 1976-77 -- and later joined as a colleague on the court.

But Garth added: 'If what you're thinking is 'Would Sam overrule Roe ?' -- he would not. He might have restrictions and limitations, but it is a precedent he'd honor. As a previous mentor and as a present colleague, I don't think he'll overrule it.'"


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