FAN 12.2 (First Amendment News) – Justice Altio on the First Amendment

Over at The American Spectator, Matthew Walther (an assistant editor there) has a very informative article titled Sam Alito: A Civil Man – The pleasure of Justice Alito’s Company. It is an overview of the Justice’s career on the Court and before. The article is well flavored with revealing snippets from an interview Mr. Walther did with the Justice. Anyone interested in the Court will want to read this article with its rich mix of the personal and professional side of the Justice.Samuel-Alito-articleInline

I have taken the liberty of excerpting a few passages from the Walther article, passages that concern, naturally, the First Amendment.


Citizens United & State of the Union 

“When he tells me that he is done making appearances at the State of the Union, I ask him about the last time he attended, in 2010, when he mouthed what looked like the words ‘Not true’ in response to President Obama’s characterization of the Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. ‘I don’t play poker,’ he says.”

“Either I should take it up so that I learn to have a poker face, or it’s a good thing that I don’t because I’d lose a lot of money. People thought I said something. I assume that they’re correct. I certainly thought it. The president said that Citizens United overruled a century of precedent, which just isn’t true. The chief justice has said that he thought that the president’s criticizing us while we were sitting there was inappropriate. I don’t know that something like that has been done before.”

United States v. Stevens & Snyder v. Phelps

“In Stevens I thought that the real restriction was on conduct, on animal cruelty, rather than on expression,” he says. “There is virtually no way to prosecute the people who are involved in these acts. If you say that you can’t circulate these videos it dries up the market for them.”

Snyder was a tough call,” he says. “Obviously eight of my colleagues disagreed with me.” I ask him what Stevens and Snyder tell us about the limits of the free speech. “The core of the First Amendment is political speech. Any restriction of political speech I think is very dangerous. That is what was involved in Citizens United. This was speech about a candidate for president. What could be more important than that? It’s about the free exchange of ideas concerning public policy, economics, science, art, religion, philosophy, all of those things.”

“Now I can’t speak for my colleagues, but I think I understand the impulse to say that we cannot tolerate any restrictions on freedom of speech because if we allow it even when it’s something like a video of a woman stomping a little animal, then that kind of limitation will begin to restrict the things that need to be covered. But if a court is going to allow restrictions on political speech or intellectual debate or discussion of the arts, our having ruled on these outliers is not going to stop it.”


There is more, much more, to Matthew Walther’s profile of and interview with Justice Alito, which I recommend to you.

For those interested, earlier accounts of Justice Alito’s views on the First Amendment are offered here, herehere, and here.

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1 Response

  1. Joe says:

    That title is a bit much, but thanks for the link to a profile of a justice that does not get much attention.