Justice Samuel Alito has mocked foreign leaders’ criticism of the Supreme Court ruling he authored that struck down the constitutional right to abortion, in his first public comments since the Supreme Court ruling. last month. The judge’s remarks drew more criticism as well as some support.
Speaking in Rome at a religious freedom summit, Alito, 72, spent only a few minutes on the subject of abortion, then only to discuss his foreign critics – an unusual step for a judge of high court.
Dressed in a tuxedo and sporting a beard he sometimes grows when the court is out of session, Alito joked that the decision he had written had been “lambasted by a whole host of foreign leaders”, then joked saying British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had “paid the price” for his comments. Johnson called the decision a “big step backwards” shortly before stepping down amid unrelated ethics inquiries.
The ruling by the court’s conservative majority led to a dozen states banning or severely restricting abortions within days. Eventually, half of the US states should ban or seriously restrict the procedure.
Alito also had the audience laughing at the lecture, sponsored by the University of Notre Dame Law School, when he said that “what really hurt me” were the remarks made “by Britain’s Prince Harry Addressing the United Nations last week, Harry spoke of the “rollback of constitutional rights here in the United States” as one of a series of converging crises that also included the invasion Russian from Ukraine.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also caught Alito’s attention during his July 21 speech in Rome at the invitation-only event. The law school released the video this week. Alito was not identified in advance as a speaker at the conference.
While judges regularly engage in pointed exchanges with their colleagues in dueling opinions, they rarely respond to outside criticism. That’s especially true when discussing foreign leaders appearing outside the United States, said Neil Siegel, a law and political science professor at Duke Law School.
“His tone can be quite dismissive and scathing. It’s like he just doesn’t care that there are tens of millions of people in this country and abroad who deeply disagree with him,” he said. “I think the most important thing is that this is not how our judges are supposed to behave.”
Still, nothing prohibits judges from publicly discussing cases once they are decided, said Akhil Reed Amar, professor of constitutional law at Yale Law School. Alito’s comments were not about the underlying issue of abortion, but rather about foreign dignitaries weighing in on US law without necessarily knowing about the subject, he said. Johnson, for example, may have sought to distract from his own national issues, Amar said.
“It was a bit sassy of them,” said Amar, who also praised Alito for responding “with a bit of wit and style.”
The judge’s speech was criticized on Friday by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., who wrote in a tweet that the remarks were politicized and said they “should be alarming to anyone.”
The speech comes amid a sharp rise in the proportion of Americans who say their trust in the Supreme Court is eroding. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll this week found that 43% of Americans have “little or no confidence” in the court, up from just 27% three months ago.
The abortion ruling was one of many seismic rulings this summer, but the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the end of a nearly half-century-long abortion right guarantee had the most widespread impact.
It has also triggered sweeping changes in other medical care, with some doctors refusing immediate treatment for serious reproductive health issues for fear of breaking strict abortion bans.
Alito’s speech was mostly devoted to praising religious freedom, another area where conservatives have prevailed in the Supreme Court in cases involving taxpayer dollars for Maine religious schools and the right of a football coach to pray at the 50 meter line.
He has been a judge since 2006, appointed by President George W. Bush.
Four years later, while attending President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, Alito was filmed uttering the words “not true” in response to Obama’s – also unusual – criticism. another major court ruling, led by the Conservatives, the Citizens United case that opened the floodgates to corporate and union spending on federal election campaigns.
Alito has never addressed this controversy in public, but it seems clear from the questions he asked when the court heard the arguments that he took issue with Obama’s assertion that the decision overturned a century of law.
Alito never again attended the State of the Union address.
The Independent Gt