Justice Alito speaks on panel about Italian constitutional system
Matthew McKenna | Wednesday, November 18, 2015
The Kellogg Institute for International Studies and the Potenziani Program in Constitutional Studies hosted the book launch for the book, “Italian Constitutional Justice in Global Context,” on Wednesday afternoon. The book was co-authored by a group of four legal scholars that includes Paolo Carozza, a Notre Dame law professor, and Andrea Simoncini, a visiting fellow and professor of constitutional law at the University of Florence, and focuses on the Italian constitutional court system and the lessons it contains for constitutional legal studies around the world.
As part of the launch, Kellogg and the Potenziani Program arranged a panel of speakers who were involved with the writing and editing of the book, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and the O’Toole Professor of Constitutional Law, Anthony J. Bellia. Simoncini also spoke on the panel.
Alito, who wrote his senior thesis on the Italian constitutional courts, said the Italian court is particularly deserving of study by the English-speaking world.
“One of the great opportunities I’ve had is to compare how I do things with other judges and justices,” he said.
Simoncini said he and his co-authors realized there was a lack of Italian constitutional study in the English language, which is mainly due to the lack of translations available.
“It was surprising to hear decisions from Albania and Zimbabwe talked about and studied, but the Italian counterparts were not,” he said, “I found this to be because Italy did not translate their decisions, and so they had no bearing on matters of global constitutionalism.”
Alito said constitutional law procedure differs drastically in courts around the world, and these differences are a mechanism through which the American court system and it’s many unique facets can be evaluated.
“Judicial review used to be unthinkable,” Alito said. “Here, in our idea of judicial review, the Constitution is law, but a higher form of the law. If the law clashes with the Constitution, constitutionality is debated and litigation arises.”
Alito said this perception of judicial review may be derived from variances in how scholars and philosophers around the world think about rights, but that judicial review holds a very important place in American constitutional law.
“Judicial review serves to protect against rights violations in the future,” Alito said.
Alito said the idea of using legal precedent to substantiate legal decisions in the Supreme Court has become a topic of much debate by legal scholars, and he believes this practice does not account for differences in value systems between countries.
“The point that emerges from looking at different cases, while Europe and America agree on certain values, it is simplistic to rely on counting up foreign decisions,” Alito said.
Alito said in the U.S. justice system, there is at least a connection to the democratic process, as elected officials are still held accountable to their constituents for decisions to accept candidates for the Supreme Court or not.
“Judges are appointed by an elected president and confirmed by elected members of congress, with only a majority,” Alito said.
Alito said this contrasts sharply with other international courts, whose procedure helps to preserve courts as “judicial bodies and not political bodies.”
Paolo Carozza, director of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, said the book was a deeply collaborative venture that was the product of friendly discussion.
“We didn’t take different chapters, each chapter was written by four pairs of hands,” Carozza said. “One person would write a chapter and then it was circulated for comments and editing.”
Simoncini said the collaborative nature of the book is perfectly suited to the subject matter, as the global community can draw important lessons from comparing their varying modes of operation.
“The dialogue between different constitutional scholars was not only the content of our work, but also the methodology,” Simoncini said.
Carozza said the way the book was written was exemplar of Notre Dame “as a community of friendship and learning.”
He also said the contributions the book will make to the study of comparative global constitutionalism “pales in comparison to the ways in which we, as a University, will impact the world.”