[JURIST] New US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito [JURIST news archive; OYEZ profile] cast his first vote on the country's highest court on Wednesday in a decision to deny a request [order, PDF] to vacate the stay of execution for Missouri death row prisoner Michael A. Taylor. The Court also denied certiorari in Taylor's case in which the inmate challenged the Missouri death penalty system as racist and lethal injection as cruel and unusual punishment, but Alito did not take part in that decision. Later Wednesday, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit agreed to a rehearing by the full court [AP report] in Taylor's case.
Alito, who was officially sworn in on Tuesday [JURIST report], took part in a second ceremonial swearing-in ceremony [recorded video] at the White House Wednesday afternoon. Chief Justice Roberts administered the oath, and President Bush once again praised Alito's strong character and approach to the law [transcript]. After taking the oath, Justice Alito said:
... I will just conclude by saying that the many letters that I've received over the past three months have reminded me how much the people of the United States revere our Constitution and our form of government, and how much they look to the Supreme Court of the United States to protect our form of government and our freedoms. That is an awesome responsibility. And in light of that, I think it's only -- only very simple and very sincere words are appropriate in closing. And so I simply pledge that I will do everything in my power to live up to the trust that has been placed in me.Alito will now occupy the seat on the far right of the courtroom, which is reserved for junior justices and has been the place of Justice Stephen Breyer [OYEZ profile] since 1994, and will be responsible for taking notes and doorkeeping during closed meetings with his fellow justices. The justices will convene on February 17 to determine if any cases must be reargued [AP report] for Alito's benefit. Alito replaces the retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor [OYEZ profile], and he praised [transcript] her Wednesday, saying, "it's particularly humbling to try to succeed Justice O'Connor, to whom the country owes such a great debt of gratitude for her tremendous service." O'Connor will begin teaching a two-week course [AP report] on the US Supreme Court on Thursday at the University of Arizona College of Law. AP has more.
10:05 PM ET - Late reports indicate that in a separate order [PDF text] issued Wednesday evening, Alito split with the Court's conservatives in refusing to lift the stay of execution for Missouri death row inmate Michael Taylor. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Thomas supported lifting the stay; Alito voted with the other five members of the Court. AP has more.