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Bench Memos

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Garnett on O’Connor v. Alito



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Sometime Bench Memo contributor and Notre Dame law prof Richard Garnett has an excellent piece in USA Today pointing out some of the problems with comparisons between Justice O’Connor and Judge Alito as to who is more conservative. Garnett also notes that both justices share a commitment to protecting religious freedom under the First Amendment. Here’s a taste:

notwithstanding her recent “liberal” votes in several hot-button cases, O’Connor was for two decades a consistent and crucial partner with Chief Justice William Rehnquist in moving the court’s constitutional doctrines in a more conservative direction: She believed, among other things, that ours is a national government of limited powers, that the states are sovereign laboratories of democracy, that religious faith and expression are protected by our Constitution and welcomed in the public square, and that our criminal laws best serve human dignity by preventing and punishing crime.

Alito is an eminently worthy successor to O’Connor. What’s more, he is all the more fitting a replacement, given their shared commitment to what has been quite rightly called our “first freedom”: The freedom of religion protected by the First Amendment.



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