It didn’t take long for Justice Samuel Alito to make news from the bench, although the news is different than either Democrats or Republicans would have predicted. Alito voted yesterday to uphold a stay of execution for a Missouri death-row inmate, aligning himself for his first vote with Ginsburg and Stevens rather than Thomas and Scalia:
New Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito split with the court’s conservatives Wednesday night, refusing to let Missouri execute a death-row inmate contesting lethal injection.
Alito, handling his first case, sided with inmate Michael Taylor, who had won a stay from an appeals court earlier in the evening. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas supported lifting the stay, but Alito joined the remaining five members in turning down Missouri’s last-minute request to allow a midnight execution.
Not being a supporter of the death penalty myself, this ruling doesn’t bother me much, but I imagine that some people on the Alito’s side during the hearings might already be wondering if they supported another Souter all along. I doubt that this one case will give anyone a reason to worry. This doesn’t amount to a final ruling on Missouri’s death penalty nor on the Taylor case itself. It allows the lower court to review the use of lethal injection as a potentially cruel and unusual punishment, a decision which the Supreme Court will undoubtedly see on appeal from either side afterwards.
It’s worth noting the Justice’s independence of thought and consideration of the law. This should embarrass every Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as everyone who took part in anti-Alito smears. It didn’t take long for Alito not only to prove them wrong but to expose them for the hysterics and McCarthyite wretches they are. Will they apologize? No way; in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they take credit for expanding Alito’s vision of the law with their disgraceful conduct in the hearings.
This may not be the last surprise from Justice Alito and his independent streak. One Republican Senator wondered aloud whether Alito would overturn Roe if given the chance during an off-the-record chat in Alito’s confirmation week. The only prediction I can make is that Alito will rule within the law and give a lot of deference to legislatures and the executive — and that is enough of an improvement for me.