Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito made a big splash with his first public remarks since eviscerating abortion rights in the United States. Alito’s comments—made at a legal conference in Rome—mocking the world leaders who spoke out against the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade drew the most attention, but he also offered a screaming warning about his intentions for future decisions.
“I had the honor this term of writing, I think, the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders—who felt perfectly fine commenting on American law,” Alito said, before going on to single out British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (joking, “he paid the price”) and Prince Harry (not actually a leader).
This was striking, for sure. “Alito apparently didn’t see the need to come across as a dispassionate and fair-minded justice,” Steve Benen wrote of the comments. “Rather, his audience saw a politician giving a political speech, deriding other politicians who dared to disagree with him, and patting himself on the back for having succeeded on a political goal.”
It’s not the first time, either. Benen pointed to a string of past speeches Alito has given that have each seemed surprisingly political for a Supreme Court justice. It’s almost like Alito is operating as a partisan. And now, with his latest speech, he’s telling the world that he does not care that his decision singlehandedly damaged the Supreme Court’s standing with Americans or the world. Since Alito’s decision in Dobbs, support has grown for reforming the court, while its favorability has plummeted.
But not only is Alito mocking the outrage over what he’s already done, he sent a signal about what he’s prepared to do, railing against “hostility to religion” and saying, “ultimately, if we are going to win the battle to protect religious freedom in an increasingly secular society, we will need more than positive law.”
Looking at those comments, legal analyst Chris Geidner tweeted, “When Sam Alito says something like this, that's a sign that the fundamental ways the Supreme Court majority has already eviscerated the Establishment Clause in favor of the Free Exercise Clause are just the first steps he wants the court to take.”
What Alito is telling us with his mockery, his arrogance, his absolute lack of pretense that he’s equally weighing free exercise of religion with other rights, is that he doesn’t care. He’s here as a political figure and he’s going to shape the country’s laws to fit his political preferences as long as he has that power. Senate Democrats should take this as a dare, and they should step up with the reforms the nation’s voters are already embracing.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.