Bush Picks Alito for Supreme Court

Discussion in 'Freedom and Liberty' started by ghostrider, Oct 31, 2005.

  1. ghostrider

    ghostrider Resident Poltergeist Founding Member

    Bush Picks Alito for Supreme Court By RON FOURNIER, AP Political Writer
    14 minutes ago

    WASHINGTON - President Bush, stung by the rejection of his first choice, nominated longtime judge Samuel Alito Monday in a bid to reshape the Supreme Court and mollify his conservative allies. Democrats said that Alito may be "too radical for the American people."

    "Judge Alito has served with distinction on that court for 15 years, and now has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years," Bush said, drawing an unspoken contrast to his first choice, Harriet Miers.

    Unlike her nomination, which was derailed Thursday by Bush's conservative allies, Alito faces opposition from Democrats.

    "The Senate needs to find out if the man replacing Miers is too radical for the American people," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

    Alito's nomination is one step in Bush's political recovery plan as he tries to regain his footing after a cascade of troubles rocked his presidency. His approval rating in the polls has tumbled to the lowest point of his presidency and Americans are unhappy about high energy prices, the costly war in Iraq and economic doubts. Bush also has been hit by a criminal investigation that reached into the office of Vice President Dick Cheney and led to the indictment of I. Lewis Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, on perjury and other charges in the CIA leak investigation.

    On top of it all, Miers' nomination angered Bush's conservative backers. Most welcomed the Alito pick.

    So consistently conservative, Alito has been dubbed "Scalito" or "Scalia-lite" by some lawyers because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But while Scalia is outspoken and is known to badger lawyers, Alito is polite, reserved and even-tempered.

    "The Supreme Court is an institution I have long held in reverence," said the bespectacled judge, a former prosecutor and government attorney who has argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court. "During my 29 years as a public servant, I've had an opportunity to view the Supreme Court from a variety of perspectives."

    From the bench, Alito has staked out positions supporting restrictions on abortion, such as parental and spousal notification.

    If he is confirmed by the Senate, Alito would join another Bush pick on the bench, Chief Justice John Roberts. He would replace retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a decisive swing vote in a host of affirmative action, abortion, campaign finance, discrimination and death penalty cases.

    Wasting no time, the White House arranged for Alito to go to the Capitol after the announcement.The schedule called for Senate Majority Leader Bill First to greet him and accompany the nominee to the Capitol Rotunda to go to the coffin of the late civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks.

    "The president has made an excellent choice today which reflects his commitment to appoint judges in the mold of Scalia and Thomas," said Kay Daly, president of the conservative Coalition for a Fair Judiciary.

    Conservative activist Gary Bauer who had challenged Miers' nomination predicted Democrats will fight Alito. "At least now the president is having a battle with his political opponents and not with his friends," Bauer told CNN. "I will help him any way I can."

    Alito signaled his alliance with Daly and other conservatives, speaking of the "limited role the courts play in our constitutional system."

    Reid, who had jumped to the support of Miers, promised to give Alito a "hard look."

    Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass., pulled no punches. "Rather than selecting a nominee for the good of the nation and the court, President Bush has picked a nominee whom he hopes will stop the massive hemorrhaging of support on his right wing. This is a nomination based on weakness, not on strength."

    The Planned Parenthood Federation of America immediately called on the Senate to reject the nomination.

    Miers bowed out last Thursday after three weeks of bruising criticism from members of Bush's own party who argued that the Texas lawyer and loyal Bush confidant had thin credentials on constitutional law and no proven record as a judicial conservative.

    Senior administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the deliberations, said Alito was virtually certain from the start to get the nod from the moment Miers backed out. The 55-year-old jurist was Bush's favorite choice of the judges in the last set of deliberations but he settled instead on someone outside what he calls the "judicial monastery," the officials said.

    Unlike Miers, who has never been a judge, Alito, a jurist from New Jersey, has been a strong conservative voice on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, seated him there in 1990.

    Judicial conservatives praise Alito's 15 years on the Philadelphia-based court, a tenure that gives him more appellate experience than almost any previous Supreme Court nominee. They say his record shows a commitment to a strict interpretation of the Constitution, ensuring that the separation of powers and checks and balances are respected and enforced. They also contend that Alito has been a powerful voice for the First Amendment's guarantees of free speech and the free exercise of religion.

    Liberal groups, on the other hand, note Alito's moniker and say his nomination raises troubling concerns, especially when it comes to his record on civil rights and reproductive rights. Alito is a frequent dissenter on the 3rd Circuit, one of the most liberal federal appellate benches in the nation.

    In the early 1990s, Alito was the lone dissenter in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a case in which the 3rd Circuit struck down a Pennsylvania law that included a provision requiring women seeking abortions to notify their spouses.

    "The Pennsylvania legislature could have rationally believed that some married women are initially inclined to obtain an abortion without their husbands' knowledge because of perceived problems — such as economic constraints, future plans or the husbands' previously expressed opposition — that may be obviated by discussion prior to the abortion," Alito wrote.

    He has not been a down-the-line abortion foe, however. In 2000, Alito joined the majority that found a New Jersey law banning late-term abortions unconstitutional. In his concurring opinion, Alito said the Supreme Court required such a ban to include an exception if the mother's health was endangered.

    The case ended up at the Supreme Court where the justices, in a 6-3 decision struck down the spousal notification provision of the law. The late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist cited Alito's reasoning in his own dissent.

    Alito, an Italian-American who grew up in Trenton, N.J., has a resume filled with stepping stones to the high court. He was educated at Princeton University and earned a law degree from Yale University, the president's alma mater.

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