- The Washington Times - Monday, January 9, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The following are excerpts from opening statements during yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to be an associate justice on the Supreme Court:

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican: “Hearings for a Supreme Court nominee should not have a political tilt for either Republicans or Democrats. They should … be for all Americans. … While I personally consider it inappropriate to ask a nominee how he would vote on a specific matter likely to come before the court, senators may ask whatever they choose, and the nominee is similarly free to respond as he chooses. It has been my experience that the hearings are a subtle minuet with nominees answering as many questions as they think they have to in order to be confirmed.”

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat: “The challenge for Judge Alito in the course of these hearings is to demonstrate that he will protect the rights and liberties of all Americans and serve as an effective check on government overreaching. The president has not helped his cause by withdrawing his earlier nomination of Harriet Miers in the face of criticism from an extreme faction of his own party.”

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican: “Groups are trying to defeat your nomination because you will not support their liberal agenda. And the reason they oppose you is precisely why I support you. I want judges on the Supreme Court who will not use their position to impose a political agenda on the American people. I want judges on the Supreme Court who will respect the words and meaning of the Constitution, the laws enacted by Congress and the laws enacted by state legislatures.”

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat: “While every Supreme Court nominee has a great burden, yours, Judge Alito, is triply high. First, because you have been named to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the pivotal swing vote on a divided court; second, because you have been picked to placate the extreme right wing after the hasty withdrawal of Harriet Miers; and finally, because your record of opinions and statements on a number of critical Constitutional questions seems quite extreme.”

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican: “I know that there is a pitched battle going on outside the Senate, with dueling press conferences, television ads, e-mail petition drives, and stacks of reports and press releases. The Senate can rise above that battle if we remember the proper role for the Senate and the proper role for judges.”

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat: “Time and again the vacancy you seek to fill was the most important vote on the court for civil rights, human rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and restraining an overreaching president. … The person who fills the O’Connor vacancy will truly tip the balance of the scales of justice in America.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican: “Judge Alito has an impressive and extensive legal and judicial record, certainly one worthy of a Supreme Court justice. … Yet, some liberal interest groups have come out in full force and have attempted to paint Judge Alito to be an extremist and an activist. … I don’t like to see facts twisted or untruths fabricated to give the nominee a black eye even before he sets foot in front of the Judiciary Committee.”

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat: “In an era when the White House is abusing power, is excusing and authorizing torture, and is spying on American citizens, I find Judge Alito’s support for an all-powerful executive branch to be genuinely troubling.”

Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican: “Your decisions are usually brief and to the point. You write with clarity and common sense. And, in most cases, you defer to the decision-making of those closest to the problem at hand. I don’t expect to agree with every case you decide. But, your modest approach to judging seems to bode well for our democracy.”

Judge Alito: “I have been shaped for the last 15 years by my experiences as a judge of the court of appeals. During that time, I have sat on thousands of cases — and I have written hundreds of opinions. And the members of this committee and the members of their staff, who have had the job of reviewing all of those opinions, really have my sympathy. I think that may have constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

“I’ve learned a lot during my years on the 3rd Circuit; particularly, I think, about the way in which a judge should go about the work of judging. …

“A judge can’t have any agenda, a judge can’t have any preferred outcome in any particular case and a judge certainly doesn’t have a client.

“The judge’s only obligation — and it’s a solemn obligation — is to the rule of law. And what that means is that in every single case, the judge has to do what the law requires.

“Good judges develop certain habits of mind. One of those habits of mind is the habit of delaying reaching conclusions until everything has been considered.

“Good judges are always open to the possibility of changing their minds based on the next brief that they read, or the next argument that’s made by an attorney who’s appearing before them, or a comment that is made by a colleague during the conference on the case when the judges privately discuss the case.

“It’s been a great honor for me to spend my career in public service. It has been a particular honor for me to serve on the court of appeals for these past 15 years because it has given me the opportunity to use whatever talent I have to serve my country by upholding the rule of law.

“And there is nothing that is more important for our republic than the rule of law. No person in this country, no matter how high or powerful, is above the law, and no person in this country is beneath the law.

“Fifteen years ago, when I was sworn in as a judge of the court of appeals, I took an oath. I put my hand on the Bible, and I swore that I would administer justice without respect to persons, that I would do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I would carry out my duties under the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

“And that is what I have tried to do to the very best of my ability for the past 15 years. And if I am confirmed, I pledge to you that that is what I would do on the Supreme Court.”

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