Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito seems "frustrated" to members of the legal community by the stances that his fellow conservatives on the court have taken in several recent cases, The Hill reports.
"He thought this term would bring strong reversals in several areas of the law," said professor Josh Blackman of the South Texas College of Law in Houston. "But, to his surprise, Justices [Amy Coney] Barrett and [Brett] Kavanaugh are pumping the breaks with the Chief," Justice John Roberts.
Blackman previously told Politico, "I think you have a three-three-three court. I disagree with the notion that we have a six-member conservative majority on many of these divisive issues."
In one recent case, Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Roberts sided against Alito and Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch in a case involving a Catholic adoption agency. Roberts wrote the decision, which sided with the agency over the city of Philadelphia but did not take a strong enough stance on religious rights for Alito and his fellow conservatives.
"After receiving more than 2,500 pages of briefings and after more than a half-year of post-argument cogitation, the Court has emitted a wisp of a decision that leaves religious liberty in a confused and vulnerable state," Alito wrote in the dissent. "Those who count on this Court to stand up for the First Amendment have every right to be disappointed — as am I."
Alito also criticized the court’s response to a case involving a Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act after the majority found that those bringing the suit lacked standing, saying that the other justices were keeping plaintiffs from "even get[ting] a foot in the door to raise a constitutional challenge."
Steve Schwinn, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, added that Alito appears "frustrated" with the "political compromises" that the justices made to reach decisions in these cases.
"No one can fail to be impressed by the lengths to which this Court has been willing to go to defend the ACA against all threats," Alito wrote in his dissent, which was joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch. "So a tax that does not tax is allowed to stand and support one of the biggest Government programs in our Nation’s history. Fans of judicial inventiveness will applaud once again."
"My guess is that he's frustrated with what appear to be political compromises to reach these results, and that he'd prefer the court, or at least his fellow conservatives, to be as full-throated dogmatic as he is," Schwinn said.
"We've seen flashes of this from him before," he added, referring to Alito’s tone in his writing. "The only difference — if there is one — is that it's at a higher volume."
Schwinn said that Alito’s "lack of collegiality" is not a new trait for him, but described the intensity of his dissent on Obamacare as "striking" and "even shocking."
He said, "We've heard this kind of aggressive, even hostile, rhetoric from [Alito] before, but this particular opinion takes it to a new level."
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