X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
President Bush, stung by the rejection of his first choice, nominated conservative judge Samuel Alito today to replace moderate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in a bid to reshape the Supreme Court and mollify his political base. “Judge Alito is one of the most accomplished and respected judges in America,” the president said in announcing Alito’s selection. “He’s got a mastery of the law and a deep commitment to justice.” Bush exhorted the Senate to confirm his choice by the end of the year. The choice was likely to spark a political brawl. Unlike the nomination of Harriet Miers, 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-Nev. In contrast to Miers, Alito “has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in 70 years,” the president said. 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. 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 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. The White House hopes the choice mends a rift in the Republican Party caused by the failed nomination of Miers, a Bush loyalist, and puts his embattled presidency on a path to political recovery. With the rebuke of Miers, the rising death toll in Iraq, his slow-footed response to Katrina and last Friday’s indictment of top vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Bush’s approval ratings are at the lowest ebb of his presidency. Polls show Democrats and most independents don’t approve of his job performance, leaving the conservative wing of his party the only thing keeping Bush afloat politically. 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. If he is confirmed by the Senate, Alito would join another Bush pick on the bench, Chief Justice John Roberts. O’Connor, who is retiring, has been a decisive swing vote in a host of affirmative action, abortion, campaign finance, discrimination and death penalty cases. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to preview Bush’s remarks, 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. Bush believes that Alito has not only the right experience and conservative ideology for the job, but also has a temperament suited to building consensus on the court. A former prosecutor, Alito has experience off the bench that factored into Bush’s thinking, the officials said. “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. “It’s a pretty predictable move from a politically crippled president,” said Democratic consultant Jim Jordan. “Toss out a judicial extremist to pacify his base and provoke a fight that he hopes changes the subject away from indictments and Iraq and Katrina and a soft economy.” While Alito is expected to win praise from Bush’s allies on the right, Democrats have served notice they will fight it. Reid had warned Sunday that it would “create a lot of problems.” 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. 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. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.