WASHINGTON – Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrote in a federal job application in 1985 that he was proud to have worked on cases that argued there is no constitutional right to an abortion.
But whether the judge's apparent personal views would affect the way he casts votes from the highest court was a matter of debate, observers said.
First reported Monday in The Washington Times, Alito said in his application that he was a lifelong Republican and proud of his work to "advance legal positions in which I personally believe very strongly.
"I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," Alito wrote.
Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and FOX News contributor, said Monday that although the writings show Alito was pro-life, they don't necessarily show how he will rule on the court.
"I think he would put — and he did put — his personal opinions aside," Kristol said. "In a couple opinions, he ruled against a pro-life type result when he thought Supreme Court precedence compelled him to go the other way."
Kirstin Powers, a Democratic strategist, told FOX News on Monday that while the application sheds some light on his legal views on abortion, "this was a long time ago and he has shown some deference to precedent."
Nevertheless, Powers said, "For people where choice is their central issue, this is a huge red flag."
Alito worked in the office of the Solicitor General during the Reagan administration, and the comments were part of his application to be deputy assistant to Attorney General Edwin Meese. Alito did not actually win the deputy assistant attorney general job until 1987.
The application document was among more than 100 pages released Monday from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Although Alito was the lone dissenter in 1991's Planned Parenthood v. Casey — a victory for pro-choice groups — in 2000 he joined the majority in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in striking down a New Jersey ban on late-term abortions, citing that it conflicted with Supreme Court precedent in not including an exception for the mother's health.
In the application, Alito also addressed his views on judicial restraint and the people to whom he looked to shape his views on limited government.
"I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise" and "the supremacy of the elected branches of government," Alito wrote. Also: "In the field of law, I disagree strenuously with the usurpation by the judiciary of decision-making authority that should be exercised by the branches of government responsible to the electorate."
Alito disclosed that he had donated money to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Conservative Political Action Committee and several GOP candidates.
He wrote that as he was becoming interested in government in the 1960s, his greatest influences were writings by William F. Buckley Jr., the National Review — the publication Buckley founded — and Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign for the presidency. Alito also said he was motivated in college by disagreement with some of the Warren Court decisions, viewed by many conservatives as classic examples of judicial activism.
Alito, who is a federal appeals judge, faced questions by Democrats last week over not immediately removing himself from a 2002 case involving the Vanguard investment fund, in which he had investments. He had said he would remove himself from such cases when he took the job.
Alito will succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor if confirmed by the Senate. Hearings to consider his nomination are scheduled to begin in January.
Political and court watchers on Monday said it's not clear what the outcome will be of Monday's disclosure, but it will likely hinge on whether Alito is perceived to be able to separate his personal views from his judicial reasoning.
Bill Sammon, who wrote the Times piece on Monday, said senators who have met with Alito have come away with the impression that he would not overturn the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that established a constitutional right to abortion.
Sammon, also a FOX News contributor, said that as a high court judge Alito might not necessarily rule along with precedent because "the job of a Supreme Court justice ... is to make precedent."
One leading liberal voiced strong concern over the letter.
"Unlike Chief Justice John Roberts, Alito says these are his own strong personal views, and not just those of the administration he was working for," said Ralph Neas, president of the Washington-based People for the American Way. "Combined with his judicial record, Judge Alito's letter underscores our concern that he would vote to turn back the clock on decades of judicial precedent protecting privacy, equal opportunity, religious freedom, and so much more."
Kristol, one of the leading conservative voices opposed to former high court nominee Harriet Miers, said he doesn’t think Alito's writings should automatically disqualify him because they encompass a belief widely held among Republicans, conservatives and even some liberals.
"If they [opponents] want to have that debate, I think a lot of conservatives will say fine, let's have that debate," Kristol said.
"For pro-choice extremists and other liberal activists to say that this legal statement by Judge Alito in 1985 somehow disqualifies him from serving as a Supreme Court justice is absurd," Wendy Long, lawyer for the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network, said in a statement.
She said justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer had taken public pro-choice positions but it was not held against them during their nomination processes.
Linda Chavez, a FOX News contributor and former Bush administration cabinet nominee, said that the debate over this application is a good sign for Alito's supporters.
"It shows a real level of desperation [by Alito's opponents] that I think probably is good news for the Republicans. It means that they really don't have much to sink their teeth into," Chavez said.
FOX News' Gregory Simmons and The Associated Press contributed to this report.