Bench Memos

O’Sullivan on Alito

John distinguishes between “philosophical” and “temperamental” conservatives:

Some conservatives — William Rehnquist in later years — are prepared to let bygones be bygones. They apply strict judicial construction to future cases, but they will respect the precedents of the last 50 years even when they believe those cases to have been wrongly decided. Others — Justice Scalia springs to mind — are prepared to overturn at least the more egregious judicial errors of recent years when either the Constitution or statute law points plainly to a different verdict.

In effect the first school, conservative in temperament, would entrench the established liberal gains since the Warren Court; the second school, conservative in philosophy, would overturn the judge-made successes of liberalism in the past as well as challenge those in the future.

I would add only that it is possible to be conservative both philosophically and temperamentally. A judge could try to move constitutional law incrementally toward the Constitution. Such a judge might decline to vote to overrule Roe the first time an abortion case came up, but rather hold for democratic authority in that case and gradually move toward a post-Roe world. Alito seems to have both a conservative temperament and a conservative philosophy, and perhaps this will be hi

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

The Arson Party

About that peaceful transfer of power . . . I do not have access to my friend Mario Loyola’s Donald J. Trump super-secret decoder ring, but I am inclined to accept Loyola’s explanation that what President Trump was trying to say, but couldn’t quite manage to say, was the usual witless Trump trolling -- ... Read More

The Arson Party

About that peaceful transfer of power . . . I do not have access to my friend Mario Loyola’s Donald J. Trump super-secret decoder ring, but I am inclined to accept Loyola’s explanation that what President Trump was trying to say, but couldn’t quite manage to say, was the usual witless Trump trolling -- ... Read More
Education

Husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein Admits to Helping Well-Connected Applicants Gain Admission to University of California: ‘No One Ever Told Me It Was Wrong’

The husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) admitted on Thursday to sending an inappropriate letter identified in a state audit that appeared to help an applicant to the University of California, Berkeley, get accepted to the school. The California State Auditor issued a scathing report on Tuesday ... Read More
Education

Husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein Admits to Helping Well-Connected Applicants Gain Admission to University of California: ‘No One Ever Told Me It Was Wrong’

The husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) admitted on Thursday to sending an inappropriate letter identified in a state audit that appeared to help an applicant to the University of California, Berkeley, get accepted to the school. The California State Auditor issued a scathing report on Tuesday ... Read More
Culture

Cancel Daphne du Maurier!

Daphne du Maurier’s brilliant novel Rebecca, first made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock (who ruined the ending), has inspired a remake. Netflix is set to release the movie on October 21, 2020. Even though I don’t expect to enjoy the film half as much as the book, it is a fantastic story, and -- what with ... Read More
Culture

Cancel Daphne du Maurier!

Daphne du Maurier’s brilliant novel Rebecca, first made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock (who ruined the ending), has inspired a remake. Netflix is set to release the movie on October 21, 2020. Even though I don’t expect to enjoy the film half as much as the book, it is a fantastic story, and -- what with ... Read More
U.S.

Civilization Requires Collective Common Sense

After the summer protests and rioting in many large cities, activists demanded a defunding, or at least radical pullbacks, of the police. So-called crime experts often concurred. So some city governments ignored public warnings and diminished their police presence despite a sharp rise in crime in many cities. ... Read More
U.S.

Civilization Requires Collective Common Sense

After the summer protests and rioting in many large cities, activists demanded a defunding, or at least radical pullbacks, of the police. So-called crime experts often concurred. So some city governments ignored public warnings and diminished their police presence despite a sharp rise in crime in many cities. ... Read More
Law & the Courts

No, the Democrats Won’t Pack the Court

For many progressive opinion-makers, the only way to save the Supreme Court is to destroy it.   They believe the best response to the Republican-held Senate confirming a Trump nominee to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court is to pack the Court if Democrats win in November. Holding out the ... Read More
Law & the Courts

No, the Democrats Won’t Pack the Court

For many progressive opinion-makers, the only way to save the Supreme Court is to destroy it.   They believe the best response to the Republican-held Senate confirming a Trump nominee to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court is to pack the Court if Democrats win in November. Holding out the ... Read More