How Conservative Is Samuel Alito?:
The comment thread to my prior post raises an interesting question: How conservative is Judge Alito? Assuming he is going to be confirmed, is he going to be a "hard core" conservative, another Clarence Thomas? Will he reach conservative results? Will he be an originalist?

  We're all just guessing here, of course. But my sense is that Alito is less conservative -- both politically and methodologically -- than a lot of people seem to think. This means that if you're on the left, you probably have less to fear from a Justice Alito than you expect. On the other hand, if you're on the right, you're probably going to end up a bit disappointed. If we want to break it down to the question of results, my guess is that he'll generally end up somewhere to the right of Kennedy, and either close to or slightly to the left of Roberts.

  I'm basing my guess on two sources of information First, it was the impression I had of Alito when I was a Third Circuit law clerk. I clerked in 1997-98, and assisted on some panels in which Alito participated. Alito struck me as right-of-center, but very institutionalist. As Judge Garth (who ought to know) said in his Senate testimony, "Make no mistake, he is no revolutionary."

  Second, I think the testimony of Alito's colleagues and former law clerks (of all ideological stripes) is particularly telling. If Alito were in fact a revolutionary, or had a big agenda, surely it would have come out at one point or another: It seems unlikely to me that an agenda-driven judge can keep that agenda secret from his colleagues and clerks for 15 years on the bench. Maybe it's humanly possible, but I don't think it's very likely.

  Anyway, that's my best guess. I look forward to the comment thread.