The last person with much hands-on prosecutorial experience on the Supreme Court was Earl Warren, whose 18 years of experienced influenced his court’s revolution in criminal procedure, says the National Law Journal. Don’t expect former federal prosecutor and Samuel Alito to steer a similar course if confirmed, says the newspaper. Before serving as California governor, Warren had spent 18 years as a local prosecutor and four as state attorney general. On the high court today, the closest to Warren and Alito in terms of hands-on experience is Justice David H. Souter, who was a state prosecutor for three years before moving up to deputy attorney general and then attorney general of New Hampshire.
“Having the U.S. Attorney perspective is very useful,” said Mark I. Levy of Kilpatrick Stockton’s Washington office, who went to Yale with Alito and served with him as an assistant to the solicitor general. Alito’s rulings as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit have not led him in the same direction as Warren took. “It is a different time, a different place and a different set of realities,” said law Prof. Douglas Berman of Ohio State University. In the criminal justice area, Alito doesn’t always rule in favor of the government, but he does more often than not. One lawyer noted that the 3rd Circuit’s rate of reversing lower courts is under 3 percent. Court watchers predict that Alito could have a particular impact, either alone or in combination with Chief Justice John Roberts, in two key areas of criminal law: sentencing and death penalty/habeas corpus.