Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the opinions in the court’s last two big cases of the term, could be the most law-and-order justice, Politico suggests. Yesterday’s cases involved a religious exception to Obamacare contraception coverage and states' ability to force workers to pay for representation by public employee unions. The pair of high-profile rulings may mean that Alito, 64, is aggressively staking out ground as a successor or even rival to Justice Antonin Scalia, 78, often viewed as the intellectual leader of the court's conservative wing. Alito is doing so in a less pugnacious and more politically palatable way than Scalia.
While Alito is conservative, he sometimes differs with the other Republican appointees on what that means. In last week's ruling on cellphone searches, the George W. Bush appointee stood alone in declaring his willingness to let legislatures dictate when smartphones should and should not be subject to search. Alito takes a law-and-order approach even in cases in which liberals and conservatives move to vindicate individual rights and free speech. In 2010, Alito stood alone to defend a law banning so-called “animal crush” videos. The next year, Alito was the only justice to defend a lawsuit aimed at the Westboro Baptist Church's vulgar anti-gay protests at military funerals.