- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2005

After weeks of criticism and the failed Harriet Miers nomination, President Bush yesterday nominated Judge Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O’Connor as associate justice on the Supreme Court. This is the moment conservatives have been waiting for: a first-rate jurist with an exemplary record.

Judge Alito’s combination of experience and youth is virtually unmatched, and he is respected across political boundaries. He has 15 years of service on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia and was approved unanimously by the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee in 1990, greeted with accolades by Democrats. At the time, Sen. Ted Kennedy called the nominee’s record “distinguished,” and said, “We look forward to supporting you.” Democrats Frank Lautenberg and Bill Bradley, New Jersey’s then-senators, said, respectively, that Judge Alito was “the kind of judge the public deserves — one who is impartial, thoughtful and fair” and would “make a contribution that will stand the test of time.” The American Bar Association declared him “well qualified.”

Judge Alito’s distinguished career includes being a federal prosecutor and serving as an captain in the Army Reserves. He has spent 15 years on the bench establishing a reputation as a fair, scholarly and respectfully staunch defender of the Constitution. Supporters and opponents in search of a track record can look to more than 300 opinions Judge Alito has written on a broad breadth subjects, including abortion, regulatory affairs and religion expression. Among the highlights: Judge Alito supported government neutrality regarding religious expression in Child Evangelism Fellowship of New Jersey v. Stafford Township School District (2004); he upheld a municipal holiday display in ACLU v. Schundler (1999); Judge Alito dissented from the majority in defense of gun rights in United States v. Rybar (1996); he upheld a state law barring sex-offender prison inmates from having pornography in Waterman v. Farmer (1998); and he upheld the free speech rights of business trade associations in Pfizer v. Giles (1995).

In what is arguably of most interest to liberals, Judge Alito dissented from the majority in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1991), arguing in defense of spousal notification. Chief Justice William Rehnquist quoted the judge’s dissent in his own when the Supreme Court upheld the 3rd Circuit’s judgment.

Judge Alito’s impressive record of public service is all too clear to people on both sides of the aisle, which is why a confirmation battle is forthcoming. (Republicans and constitutionalists should welcome it; it is a battle they can win.) As Sen. Lindsey Graham put it over the weekend: “The filibuster will not stand.” All indications are that the leadership is ready. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said yesterday: “If the Democrats are looking for a fight, we’ll be up for the fight. We won’t back down… We’re gonna get an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor and if the Democrats want a fight, they’ll get one.”

Unlike Miss Miers, Judge Alito is not an unknown. If 300 opinions and over 3,500 cases in a federal appellate court don’t give the Democrats a sense of Judge Alito’s record, the problem lies with the nominee’s detractors, not the nominee.

The Senate leadership should schedule hearings in preparation for a December vote. The president has nominated an exceptionally qualified and experienced judge. Sam Alito is a clear, conservative choice who deserves the up-or-down vote to which court nominees are entitled.

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