Alito once assured Ted Kennedy that he respected Roe V. Wade

  • Judge Samuel Alito once told the late Senator Ted Kennedy that he respected the precedent of Roe v. Wade.
  • The NY Times previewed portions of Kennedy’s diary in John A. Farrell’s “Ted Kennedy: A Life.”
  • Despite Alito’s assurances, Kennedy was not convinced and voted against his confirmation.

Judge Samuel Alito respected the precedent established by Roe v. Wade.

At least that’s what he told the late Senator Ted Kennedy in November 2005, months before the Bush-appointed conservative judge was confirmed to the nation’s highest court.

During a meeting between the two men, Alito assured Kennedy that he was respecting the legal precedent established by Roe v. Wade in the landmark decision legalizing abortion in 1973, according to Kennedy’s record of the conversation, later transcribed in his private diary.

The New York Times featured excerpts from Kennedy’s diary on Monday that will be published Tuesday in biographer John A. Farrell’s “Ted Kennedy: A Life.”

“I recognize that there is a right to privacy,” Alito told the longtime Massachusetts Democrat, according to the outlet. “I think it’s fixed.”

But 17 years later, Alito upended Roe’s 50-year precedent. Earlier this year, he wrote the majority opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The June decision overturned Roe v. Wade and made it clear that Alito had been critical of the case for a long time.

Longstanding precedent, Alito wrote, “does not compel endless adherence to Roe’s abuse of judicial authorities. Roe was terribly wrong from the start.”

Kennedy, decades earlier, had anticipated Alito’s true feelings on the matter. The senator was skeptical of Alito’s easy answers, according to Farrell, and during that November meeting he pressed the judge about a memo he had written as a Justice Department attorney in 1985 that openly announced his dislike of Roe.

samuel alito

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito testifies on the court’s budget during a hearing by the House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government on March 7, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images



Alito told Kennedy that he shouldn’t worry about the memo; he had been looking for a promotion at the time and tried to please his bosses, he explained, according to Kennedy’s recollection.

“I was a younger person,” Alito said, according to The Times. “I have matured a lot.”

Kennedy was even more suspicious of Alito’s explanation, based on Farrell’s interpretation of his diary. The senator suggested in his diary that if Alito had bowed to his bosses for promotion decades earlier, he would go even further by disguising his real views in an effort to secure a Supreme Court confirmation.

Kennedy, who died in 2009, did not vote for Alito’s nomination in January 2006.

A Supreme Court spokesman did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Former aides and friends of Kennedy told The Times through Farrell that the senator had been furious about the court’s conservative bias in recent years. Two years before his death, Kennedy criticized judicial candidates who he said presented a front of moderation before their confirmation, only to “reveal themselves as ideologues” once on the bench.

A September internal poll found that more than 55% of every age group surveyed said the Supreme Court was “somewhat” or “very much out of touch” on issues related to abortion access.

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