Democratic Support for Alito

by Tina Praprotnik | 11/14/05 6:00am

Bush's choice of nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court is neither surprising nor outrageous. I imagine that if Clinton were to nominate a conservative, he would encounter a negative response from his Democratic supporters as well as from Republicans. An analogous course of events follows a Republican nomination of a liberal. I therefore do not think it is unreasonable that a Republican president has chosen a man who The New York Times's reporter Janny Scott describes as "conservative by temperament, upbringing and experience" ("Court Choice is Conservative by Nature, Not Ideology," Nov. 7).

However, this most recent Supreme Court nomination has triggered an uproar, and ripping on Bush's judicial nominees has become a pastime of the opposition. In this case, the criticism is undeserved. A closer look at Judge Samuel Alito reveals that he is not a conservative ideologue who loves to "spit in the face of both women's rights and minority rights," ("Alito's Disturbing Record," Nov. 2) but instead a qualified candidate with a reasonably balanced voting record.

Judge Alito has substantial experience in the legal profession. He began his career in 1976 as a law clerk in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and has since held a number of prominent judicial offices, including the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey and Deputy Assistant Attorney General. He is more experienced than was Sandra Day O'Connor (whom he is replacing) during her nomination -- she took her oath only six years after being appointed to her first public office.

The new nominee's record is not only extensive, but also balanced. Although some of his decisions -- including a ruling denying asylum to an Iranian woman -- do align with his conservative image, a number of notable others do not.

His stance on abortion is ambiguous: he wrote a dissent to a pro-choice majority opinion in 1991 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, but he concurred with the pro-choice decision in Planned Parenthood v. Farmer in 2000. According to Ronald Collins and David Hudson of the First Amendment Center, Judge Alito is also "quite protective of several categories of expression, including religious and commercial expression." In 2004's Abdul-Aziz v. City of Newark, Alito wrote the majority opinion in favor of two Sunni Muslim officers who protested the no-beard policy of their police department on religious grounds.

Judge Alito's judicial work is therefore hard to label as decidedly liberal or conservative, and much of the harping on his bias is unwarranted. To continue its role as an independent and moderating body, the Supreme Court needs members who will base their decisions on jurisprudence and not political alignment. If Judge Alito will -- to use a pun from The Dartmouth Free Press -- "take a seat-o" as a new Supreme Court justice, it is possible that he will become such a member.

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