- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

The American Bar Association yesterday rated Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. “well-qualified” to serve on the Supreme Court, even as several left-leaning advocacy groups released reports arguing his judicial philosophy would force the court rightward.

The association’s 15-member standing committee voted unanimously, with one person abstaining.

A well-qualified rating, the group’s “strongest affirmative endorsement,” means Judge Alito is at the top of the legal profession, has outstanding legal ability and breadth of experience and meets the highest standards.

Republicans said that leaves Judge Alito, who serves on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, well-positioned for next week’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Judge Alito is right on track to become Justice Alito,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican.

Presidents used to seek an American Bar Association (ABA) rating before submitting a nomination to Congress, though President Bush discontinued the practice in 2001. At that time, key Senate Democrats called the ABA the “gold standard” for determining a nominee’s worthiness.

The ABA still provides its ratings to the Judiciary Committee and is expected to testify next week.

Yesterday, liberal advocacy groups said the ABA rating was both expected and not important as senators decide how to vote on the nomination.

“I don’t think anybody is disputing how well-qualified Judge Alito is for this seat,” said Seth Rosenthal, legal director for the Alliance for Justice, which released a 168-page report looking at Judge Alito’s rulings in split-decisions on the 3rd Circuit.

And Elliot M. Mincberg, legal director of People For the American Way, which released its own 155-page report, said the story out of yesterday should be the reports’ findings of how often Judge Alito ruled in favor of the government over individuals.

The Alliance for Justice report says that in cases where the 3rd Circuit was split and Judge Alito was part of the decision, he sided with the government 85 times out of 104. The majority opinion in those cases sided with the government 57 times.

Liberal groups also are planning to begin running commercials this week to stir up opposition to the nomination.

Judge Alito’s backers predicted the reports would be overshadowed by the ABA rating.

Mr. Alito, the son of Italian immigrants, did win the broad backing yesterday of groups representing Italian-Americans, which said they will be watching to ensure Judge Alito is given a fair hearing.

A. Kenneth Ciongoli, chairman of the National Italian American Foundation, called Judge Alito “a poster child for the American mainstream.” He and leaders of other groups, such as the Order Sons of Italy in America, said they were appalled by insinuations that Judge Alito may be soft on organized crime because of his Italian ancestry.

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