More Early Alito Memos Released

In a photo released by his mother, Supreme Court nominee, Judge Samuel Alito is seen in a 1990 photogragh at the time of his appointment to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. AP/Alito Family

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito recommended against appealing to the high court a ruling that revived a Black Panther Party lawsuit against the government.

Alito, working in the Justice Department at the time, argued that the department could win the case in a lower court.

"None of the legal issues presented by this case seems to warrant Supreme Court review," Alito wrote on Nov. 19, 1981, while he was working for the solicitor general's office. The memo was among another batch of Alito papers released Wednesday by the National Archives.

The Black Panthers' lawsuit accused government officials of conspiring against the militant group and its members for years. A federal judge had thrown out the lawsuit, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed that decision. The appeals court ordered the judge to reconsider the case.

Alito noted that nothing in the trial court was "decided against the government with finality."

And "even if the Supreme Court were to agree with our arguments, it would not follow that dismissal of the complaint would be the appropriate sanction," he wrote.

The Supreme Court thought otherwise. The Justice Department went on to appeal the case to the high court, which ordered the Black Panther lawsuit thrown out.

Alito did note that he could see a reason to take the case to the Supreme Court, considering its high-profile nature.

"This is not an ordinary lawsuit, and the issues may consequently take on added significance," Alito said. "While I am convinced that the individual legal issues do not warrant the filing of a petition action, I recognize that a decision to the contrary has something to recommend it."
  • Lloyd Vries

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