Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Should We Worry?

In a 1985 job application, Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito wrote to Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese that he was "particularly proud" of arguments he had made within the Administration "that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion."

Yesterday, Mr. Alito dismissed those remarks, in meetings with two key Judiciary Committee senators. Dianne Feinstein of California characterized their conversation about the memo this way: "He said first of all it was different then. He said, 'I was an advocate seeking a job, it was a political job and that was 1985. I'm now a judge. I've been on the circuit court for 15 years, and it's very different. I'm not an advocate; I don't give heed to my personal views. What I do is interpret the law.'"

Ms. Feinstein said she found Alito's response "very sincere" and that she believed he was being truthful.

Senator Ted Kennedy also met with Alito yesterday. After their powwow, Kennedy said he also asked Alito about the 1985 memo. "And so I asked him, 'Why shouldn't we consider the answers that you're giving today an application for another job?'" Kennedy continued "He had indicated that he is an older person that has learned more, that he thinks he is a wiser person, that he has got a better grasp and understanding of constitutional rights and liberties."

I would like to believe Judge Alito's claim, that he doesn't now as a judge give heed to his personal views, whatever they are. I really would. But the cynic in me shouts back. I fully expect that he will be questioned about this somewhat troubling disclosure before the Judiciary Committee, because it is important that we not elevate someone to the highest court in the land who goes there knowing exactly what course they will take when they get there.


At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Meters said...

Also being cynical here.... but what makes us believe Alito now? If he said those things to get a job in the past, why would he tell the truth now that he's asking the entire United States Senate to hire him?

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

We really have to assume that all justices have strong personal views on many issues. I mean, don't we all? But the concern here is that these specific views relate directly to the interpretation of the Constitution. While I think you can make a strong and honest argument that the Constitution doesn't guarantee the right to abortion or even that it forbids quotas (in some of its forms, at least), the question is, which came first: the personal views or the Constitutional interpretation?

This is why the whole vetting process for these judges is so difficult. To me, it is perfectly valid for a Senator to vote against a justice whose judicial philosophy is contrary to the Senator's own. But it is not valid to vote against a justice simply because their personal views are different. But drawing that line is a tricky, tricky task.

At 12:44 AM, Blogger "A Brown" said...

Judicial surprises are rare, that is why we tend to notice them. Justices are almost always what we think they will be. This is particularly true when judges are bumped up. At least in the case of abortion, we already know how Alito’s views influence his judicial philosophy, thanks to his dissent in Casey. He is almost for sure what he seems: a conservative activist who would be happy to rewrite precedent in the name of the “Founder’s intent.” I write this as someone who worries that the fight over abortion has overwhelmed the confirmation process. As it is, Roe is not going anywhere per say, just limited to the level Justice Kennedy feels is appropriate.


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