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December 25, 2005

Reviewing Alito's work in criminal cases

The New York Times has this story discussing Judge Sam Alito's work in criminal cases while on the Third Circuit.  Here's the chief conclusion of the piece:

Judge Alito's opinions in criminal cases are meticulously written, with careful deference to the findings of trial court judges and juries and scrupulous determination to fit his decisions into the framework built by past cases.  He hews to the rules.

This conclusion seems sound, but it hardly facilitates predicting Alito's vote on key sentencing issues to be facing the Supreme Court.  After the decisions in Blakely and Booker, it is hard to be sure exactly what the rules are for the Sixth Amendment.  As I lament in my recent University of Chicago Legal Forum article, Reconceptualizing Sentencing (discussed here and here and at SSRN here), the Supreme Court has failed to build a conceptual framework for its rulings in this area.  Similarly, the Court's Eighth Amendment framework for deciding death penalty cases continues to evolve; a Justice Alito may find that there are many different capital rules to which he might hew. 

The NY Times article includes a quote from a defense lawyer that may provide a better basis for predicting how Alito will rule on criminal cases than his penchant for hewing to rules:

"The perception is, he's coming from an extremely conservative point of view," said George Newman, a defense lawyer in Philadelphia who has argued cases before the judge. "He's not a good defense judge."

December 25, 2005 at 02:25 PM | Permalink

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» Blog Round-Up - Tuesday, December 27th from SCOTUSblog
Sentencing Law & Policy has this post discussing this New York Times article on Judge Alito and criminal justice issues from his tenure on the 3rd Circuit. The Volokh Conspiracy has this post discussing this C-SPAN interview with frequent Supreme... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 27, 2005 4:02:57 PM

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