WASHINGTON – President Bush's pick for the Supreme Court carries a long judicial record that will please some and anger others but will certainly be the foundation for any attempt to divine how he may rule on cases before the nation's highest court.
Samuel A. Alito (search), a jurist on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the last 15 years, has a detailed record on decisions involving abortion rights, free speech, free exercise of religion and other cases that are frequently heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
To the concerns of many Democrats, his strong conservative credentials indicate he could shift the court to the right with a tie-breaking vote in cases relating to restricting a woman's ability to terminate her pregnancy.
While Bush’s first pick to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (search), Harriet Miers, withdrew her nomination in part because conservatives suspected she was too much like the moderate O'Connor, Alito's judicial record shows he has far differing views than the associate justice.
O’Connor often served as the fifth vote on the court to limit government power to restrict abortions and supports striking down limits that impose an “undue burden” on women. Alito’s voting record is closer to that of Justice Antonin Scalia, who would overturn Roe v. Wade (search), the court’s landmark ruling ensuring a woman’s right to abortion.
Scalia, for whom Alito once clerked, has contended that the undue burden standard is hopelessly unworkable. Alito has not stated whether he would vote to overturn Roe.
As an appeals court judge, Alito was required to follow Supreme Court precedent, which he did. In 2000, for example, he was among the judges who ruled that a New Jersey law banning late-term abortions was unconstitutional, following high court precedent.
But other areas of Alito’s record on abortion have attracted criticism from abortion rights supporters. He was the sole dissenter in 1991's Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which he voted to uphold the Pennsylvania law requiring a woman seeking an abortion to notify her husband.
"The Pennsylvania legislature could have rationally believed that some married women are initially inclined to obtain an abortion without their husbands' knowledge because of perceived problems — such as economic constraints, future plans or the husbands' previously expressed opposition — that may be obviated by discussion prior to the abortion," Alito wrote from his seat on the 3rd Circuit Court.
The case went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court's striking of the law and was used to reaffirm Roe v. Wade. However, late Chief Justice William Rehnquist used Alito's logic to write his own dissent.
“The fact that Alito feels that that is an appropriate legislative position to take is frightening,” said Tammy Bruce, radio talk show host and FOX News contributor.
"[Alito's] confirmation would radically transform the Supreme Court and create a direct threat to the health and safety of American women," said Karen Pearl, interim president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
'Tough and Fair'
On Monday, Bush praised his nominee, saying that Alito is known for being tough and fair.
“Judge Alito's reputation has only grown over the span of his service,” Bush said. “He has participated in thousands of appeals and authored hundreds of opinions. This record reveals a thoughtful judge who considers the legal merits carefully and applies the law in a principled fashion.”
In an effort to ease the upcoming confirmation process, Alito offered to provide senators his judicial records and other information that would allow senators to consider his judicial philosophy and temperament.
“I will do everything I can to cooperate with them and to discuss my record as a judge and the record of what I have done in other stages of my legal career,” Alito told reporters while meeting with GOP senators on Capitol Hill.
What records are already available show that Alito has also been a powerful voice in the debate over the First Amendment's guarantees of free speech and free exercise of religion. He also has a record of supporting women's rights, said Jay Jorgenson (search), one of Alito's former law clerks.
Alito argued that "women in Iran can obtain asylum in the United States based on being feminists, based on facing persecution in Iran because they don't want to wear the head scarf that is required or because they're a feminist and speak out on feminist issues," Jorgenson told FOX News.
"Judge Alito has a great record of applying the law in a way that is fair to both men and women," he added.
Another case that offers insight into Alito’s legal thinking is ACLU v. Schundler (search). Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, held that a city’s holiday display with religious symbols did not violate the First Amendment because it also had secular symbols and a banner promoting racial diversity.
Alito dissented from a ruling in Homar v. Gilbert (search) in which the court ruled that a state university had violated a campus police officer’s due process rights by suspending him without pay immediately after he was arrested on drug charges.
One court decision revolved around Shore Regional High School Board of Education v. P.S., No. 03-3438 (search). In it, Alito wrote the majority opinion holding that a school district did not provide a high school student with a free and appropriate public education because it did not protect the student from bullying. Fellow students were said to have bullied a high school student because he wasn’t athletic and his sexual orientation was questioned.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday that a preliminary review of Alito's record raises questions about his commitment to civil rights, workers' rights, women's rights and the rights of average Americans.
Schumer said his record is just as important as any outward displays of respect, such as Alito's morning visit to the coffin of civil rights leader Rosa Parks, which sat in the Capitol Rotunda Monday before her burial.
"Like Rosa Parks, Judge Alito will be able to change history by virtue of where he sits. The real question today is whether Judge Alito would use his seat on the bench, just as Rosa Parks used her seat on the bus, to change history for the better or whether he would use that seat to reverse much of what Rosa Parks and so many others fought so hard and for so long to put in place," Schumer said.
Test Cases Coming to the Court
The next Supreme Court justice could have a real impact on the direction of the nation's legal system as the court is scheduled to hear significant abortion cases and other matters. Even if O'Connor is sitting on the bench when the case is heard, if she is gone by the time the decision is handed down, her vote doesn't count. That would mean the remaining eight members could uphold the vote without O'Connor or it could request to rehear the case.
The Bush administration has an appeal pending at the court that seeks to reinstate a 2003 federal law that bans partial-birth abortion. A lower court struck the law, saying it doesn't protect a mother's health. O’Connor would likely have been a vote against the law, but if Alito is seated, he could turn the vote around.
Another case to be heard is on New Hampshire’s parental notification law, which a lower court said is unconstitutional because it doesn’t have an exception for a minor to obtain an abortion to protect her health. That case is scheduled for Nov. 30, too soon for Alito to be seated.
A senior GOP leadership aide said leading lawmakers are pushing for hearings and a final vote on the Senate floor by the Christmas holiday.
FOXNews' Molly Henneburg, Melissa Drosjack and The Associated Press contributed to this report.