- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The following are excerpts from the Senate confirmation hearings yesterday for Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican: Starting with a woman’s right to choose, Judge Alito, do you accept the legal principles articulated in Griswold v. Connecticut, that the liberty clause in the Constitution carries with it the right to privacy?

Judge Alito: Senator, I do agree that the Constitution protects a right to privacy, and it protects the right to privacy in a number of ways. The Fourth Amendment certainly speaks to the right of privacy. People have a right to privacy in their homes and in their papers and in their persons.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat: We just found out again, not because the government told us, but because the press found [out] about it … but we found out that the Department of Defense was going around … the country photographing and spying on people who are protesting the war in Iraq. … You know, if you have somebody who has been spied on … do you agree that they should have a day in court?

Judge Alito: Certainly. If someone has been the subject of illegal law-enforcement activities, they should have a day in court, and that’s what the courts are there for — to protect the rights of individuals against the government — or anyone else who violates their rights. And they have to be absolutely independent and treat everybody equally.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican: … Do you believe that the president of the United States is above the law and the Constitution?

Judge Alito: Nobody in this country is above the law, and that includes the president.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat: Judge, in just the past month, the Americans have learned that the president instructed the National Security Agency to spy on them at home. … And they’ve heard the president announce that he has accepted the McCain amendment barring torture. But then just days later, as he signed it into law, the president decided he still could order torture whenever he believed it was necessary. No check, no balance, no independent oversight. … And so, Judge Alito, we need to know whether … you will ever be able to conclude that the president has gone too far.

Judge Alito: … Our Constitution gives the judiciary a particular role, and there are instances in which it can override the judgments that are made by Congress and by the executive. But for the most part, our Constitution leaves it to the elected branches of government to make the policy decisions for our country.

Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican: What is the proper role, in your view, of foreign law in U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and when, if ever, is citation to or reliance on these foreign laws appropriate?

Judge Alito: I don’t think that foreign law is helpful in interpreting the Constitution. Our Constitution does two basic things: It sets out the structure of our government, and it protects fundamental rights. The structure of our government is unique to our country, and so I don’t think that looking to decisions of supreme courts of other countries or constitutional courts in other countries is very helpful in deciding questions relating to the structure of our government.

Sen. Herb Kohl, Wisconsin Democrat: Judge Alito, you stated … that one element of the conservative philosophy that you believed very strongly, quote … “legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values,” unquote. What traditional values were you referring to? And who decides what is a, quote, “traditional value”?

Judge Alito: … I think a traditional value that I probably had in mind was the ability to live in peace and safety in your neighborhood. … I think the ability of people to raise a family and raise their children in accordance with their own beliefs is a traditional value. I think the ability to raise a family in — raise children in a way that they’re not only subjected to — they’re spared physical threats, but also psychological threats that can come from elements in the atmosphere is a traditional value. I think that the ability to practice your own conscience is a traditional value.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat: … One of the core principles of Roe [v. Wade] is that a woman’s health must be protected. In Casey, [Justice Sandra Day] O’Connor specifically wrote that after viability, the state, quote, “may, if it chooses, regulate and even proscribe abortion, except where it is necessary in appropriate medical judgment for the preservation of the life of the mother.” … Do you agree, is a statute that restricts access to abortion, that it must protect the health of the mother in order for it to be constitutional?

Judge Alito: Well, I think that the case law is very clear that protecting the life and the health of a mother is a compelling interest throughout pregnancy. I think that’s very clear in the case law.

Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat: Can the president violate or direct or authorize others to violate the criminal laws of the United States?

Judge Alito: The president has the obligation under Article II of the Constitution to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. And the laws mean first and foremost the Constitution of the United States. That applies to everybody. It applies to the president. And the president, no less than anybody else, has to abide by the Constitution.

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