Supreme Court Justice Alito: Judges Should Show Judicial Restraint

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 17, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Supreme Court Justice Alito: Judges Should Show Judicial Restraint Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 17
, 2006

Washington, DC ( — When the Supreme Court held hearings on the partial-birth abortion ban last week, newly minted Justice Samuel Alito showed great restraint by sitting silently and letting the high court’s senior members ask the questions. On Thursday, he said judges should also restrain themselves from becoming activists on the bench.

Alito told members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, that the courts are not “the center of the universe” when it comes to public policy.

“Life-tenured, appointed judges must exercise restraint in construing” the constitution, Alito said, according to an Associated Press report.

he said the executive and legislative branches of government should be allowed to take the lead in setting public policy and not allow the judicial branch to be the sole arbiter of legislation.

“It is wrong to think that the courts are the center of the universe when it comes to all legal questions,” Alito said.

During the speech, Alito said he had been a member of the Federalist Society for 20 years and embraced its calls for limited government and judicial restraint for judges.

The members of the Supreme Court regarded as the most friendly to pro-life legislation have been more outspoken in recent months about the role of the judiciary.

In October, Justice Antonin Scalia discussed the issue of abortion and the Constitution and indicated that there is nothing in the document that provides for abortion rights.

Scalia told an audience at a panel sponsored by the National Italian American Foundation that abortion and assisted suicide have nothing to do with the Constitution and that judges that allow those so-called rights pervert the democratic process.

He indicated that such issues are best left to the political process — ballots and state legislatures.

"The court could have said, ‘No, thank you.’ The court could have said, you know, ‘There is nothing in the Constitution on the abortion issue for either side,’ " Scalia said. "It could have said the same thing about suicide, it could have said the same thing about . . . all the social issues the courts are now taking."

He said forcing the high court to decide so many social issues cases compromises its independence.

"It is part of the new philosophy of the Constitution," he said. "And when you push the courts into that, and when they leap into it, they make themselves politically controversial. And that’s what places their independence at risk."

Alito was involved in that discussion and he agreed with Scalia’s remarks saying that "the same thing exists, but to a lesser degree, with the lower courts."

Scalia is one of the two members of the high court, including Justice Clarence Thomas, who have taken a pro-life position against the Roe v. Wade decision.

Joined by new Chief Justice John Roberts and Alito, the four are thought to be the block of judges who will lead the way in overturning Roe once one more pro-life judge is added. The current Supreme Court is divided 5-4 in favor of abortion.