SCALIA VERSUS ALITO

Time has an interesting discussion of

a little-known Social Security case in 2002 which may be instructive when it comes to comparing Alito to Scalia.

In that case, Alito argued passionately with other members of the 3rd Circuit Appeals Court that a disabled woman, Pauline Thomas, should be granted benefits because she had been laid off from her job as an elevator operator and could not find a new job since the position of “elevator operator” had virtually disappeared from the economy. A lower court had ruled that a narrow and technical reading of the Social Security statute did not entitle Thomas to benefits. Alito called this result “absurd” and overrode the objections of several of his colleagues and convinced the full 3rd Circuit to overturn the lower court decision.

Alito’s passion didn’t move the Supreme Court, however, which overturned his decision in 2003. In a pointed rejection of Alito’s opinion x97 accusing him of “disregarding” basic grammatical rules for interpreting the law x97 the Supreme Court fell back on the narrow and technical reading and denied Thomas her Social Security benefits. The author of this stinging rebuke to Alito? Justice Antonin Scalia.

Ouch. Does that mean that, in this case, Scalia thought Alito was too activist?

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