February 15, 2006

Nominee Samuel Alito’s Cases on Free Speech

Posted by Eric Jaffa
Monday October 31st 2005, 7:27 am
Filed under: Free Speech, Courts

George W. Bush nominated Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court this morning.

For an overview of his hostility to liberty, visit Think Progress. Samuel Alito believes that police should be able to strip search us for drugs — even if our names aren’t in search warrants.

Regarding free speech, Alito seems to rule in favor of it when conservative speech is at issue, and against it otherwise.

In “Saxe v. State College Area School District” (2001), a case in which the plaintiffs wanted to speak out against homosexuality, he ruled in favor of free speech:

Two high school students challenged a school district’s anti-harassment policy, contending it violated their First Amendment rights. The students believed that the policy prohibited them from voicing their religious belief that homosexuality was a sin.

The policy provided several examples of harassment, including: “any unwelcome verbal, written or physical conduct which offends, denigrates or belittles an individual” because of “race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or other personal characteristics.” The district court ruled the policy constitutional. The students appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Issue: Whether a high school anti-harassment policy that prohibits a broad range of speech offensive to others violates the First Amendment.

Holding: In a 3-0 decision, a Third Circuit panel held that such a broadly worded policy prohibits too much speech and violates the First Amendment.

This ruling against the broad harassment policy was proper, but Alito was ruling for conservative plaintiffs and it’s easy to defend the free speech of your own.

Samuel Alito cases against free speech

In “Sanguigni v. Pittsburgh Board of Education” (1992), Alito ruled that a teacher, Ms. Sanguigni, could be fired from her position as a coach for writing in a faculty newsletter that there was a problem of low morale among teachers. ( From People for the American Way. See page 19 of the pdf document.)

In “Banks v. Beard” (2005), Alito wrote in dissent that prisoners don’t have the right to access most newspapers and magazines, nor photographs of friends and family. (From PFAW. See page 20 of the pdf document.)

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