This near to the vote on the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito LAW ’75, the judge’s judicial history requires attention.
While Alito is experienced, his radically conservative judicial philosophy threatens the most basic of our constitutional rights and freedoms. This is clearly demonstrated by sifting through a damaging paper trail.
The most vital charge that can be made against Alito’s nomination is his unwavering opposition to abortion rights. His judicial record on the issue is clear. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Judge Alito issued a solo dissent in a decision striking down a law requiring spousal notification before an abortion. The Supreme Court later upheld Planned Parenthood v. Casey. More chillingly, the language used by Judge Alito in his dissent opposes the language of Sandra Day O’Connor, the justice he is to replace, in her opinion upholding the decision. Finally, many legal commentators have argued that Alito’s writings regarding abortion cases, even in those opinions friendly to abortion rights, are rendered begrudgingly.
As Alito has tried to restrict a woman’s right to choose, so too has he tried to restrict civil rights. In Bray v. Marriott Hotels, Alito argued unsuccessfully in another solitary dissent that a jury should not hear an employee’s race-discrimination claim. His reasoning was so troubling to the majority that the judges feared discrimination laws “would be eviscerated if our analysis were to halt where [Alito’s] dissent suggests.”
In a separate but similar case, Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, Alito disagreed with the majority in a disability-discrimination case. The majority held that a disabled medical student had demonstrated enough evidence for a jury to consider her claim that the college had failed to accommodate her handicap. In a rebuke of Judge Alito’s logic, the majority asserted that Alito’s standards would make it so that “few if any Rehabilitation Act cases could survive,” to make it to a jury trial.
In addition to his consistent ruling against plaintiffs in civil rights discrimination cases, Alito’s membership in a Princeton University alumni group that opposed the University’s admission of women and its affirmative action policies is troubling. Alito first tried to deny involvement in the group, saying that he was engaged only in resume padding when he included the group in a 1985 job application for a position in the Reagan administration. In a Judiciary Committee hearing now little more than a charade, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah tried to clear up the confusion by asking a pointed and direct question: “Let me just ask you, on the record, are you against women and minorities attending colleges?” The answer, as you might have guessed, was no. This answer is unimportant, given the absurdity of the fact that the question had to be asked in the first place.
A final example of Judge Alito’s hostility to civil rights comes from the same 1985 job application. In it, Alito wrote that he disagrees with the “one person, one vote” principle established by the Warren Court in a series of cases from 1962-1964. These rulings, combined with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, reversed a trend marginalizing the racial and ethnic minorities living in urban areas in favor of rural (white) voters by redistricting. Surely the ability to have votes matter is a prerequisite for meaningful and sustained civil rights.
What does it say if, after almost two decades following these decisions of the Warren Court and their subsequent reinforcement as “superprecedent,” Alito bragged of his opposition to their establishment? What does it say when Alito’s views of privacy against search and seizure are so limited that he authorized a strip search of a 10-year-old girl (“Doe v. Groody”)? It says that Alito fails to acknowledge and uphold even the most basic of constitutional civil rights. It says that Alito is not a mainstream conservative, as the Bush Administration would have us believe, but an extremist.
While Alito may be competent enough to write judicial opinions, his radical legal reasoning leaves him unqualified to sit on the nation’s highest court. The Supreme Court is no place for someone who fails to uphold the most basic of our freedoms. The Bush administration and Republicans in Congress have been disingenuous and manipulative, focusing on qualifications as a disguise for Alito’s radicalism. The Bush administration is using the Supreme Court and the Alito nomination to push an unpopular, fanatically conservative agenda that must be opposed. Qualifications matter little when a judge’s positions deviate so drastically from the mainstream.
Time is running out to stop the Alito nomination. Democrats and responsible, moderate Republicans should band together and stop the further politicizing of the Supreme Court. Conscientious senators should be willing to go as far as is necessary to stop such an extreme nominee. Call your senators today and tell them to reject Alito.
Ben Shaffer is a freshman in Berkeley College. He is the issues coordinator for the Yale College Democrats.