Alito Gives More Info, Prepares for Vote
WASHINGTON – Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito told senators Friday that he sees protection in the Constitution for privacy, but he refused anew to divulge his thoughts on the Supreme Court's landmark abortion rights decisions.
Just as he did during his five-day confirmation hearing last week, Alito in written responses to questions submitted by six Senate Democrats refused to delve into several abortion-related issues, including the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision establishing abortion rights.
"Because Roe concerns issues that may well come before the Supreme Court, it would be inappropriate for me to comment directly on it," he wrote.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on his nomination to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on Tuesday, with the full Senate starting final debate the next day. Most if not all of the Senate's 55 Republicans are expected to support him. That would give him enough votes for confirmation if the 44 Democrats and independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont don't attempt a filibuster.
Several Democrats say they don't expect a filibuster, but they are lining up to vote against the conservative judge. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., — who voted for the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts — announced Friday that he would oppose Alito's confirmation.
"I cannot reconcile the seemingly moderate and amiable jurist of the past few weeks" with Alito's two-decade record as a conservative federal appeals court judge and official in the Reagan and Bush administrations, said Wyden, who met with Alito on Wednesday.
Wyden is the fourth of the 22 Democrats who supported Roberts to announce opposition to Alito. Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Max Baucus of Montana and Ken Salazar of Colorado also are opposing the conservative judge after voting to confirm Roberts last year.
Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska is the only Democrat to announce that he will vote for Alito's confirmation next week. He also voted for Roberts' confirmation.
Democrats Tom Harkin of Iowa, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland also are opposing Alito, like they did Roberts.
Three of the opposing senators who sit on the Judiciary Committee — Leahy, Durbin and Kennedy — announced their opposition before getting Alito's responses to their written questions. Alito, however, did not offer much new information, saying several times that the issues they raised were ones that he might have to rule on as a justice.
He also again said he saw a right to privacy in the Constitution, and said his views in a 1985 memo saying the "Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion" was influenced by Supreme Court opinions criticizing Roe. v Wade as well as "scholarly publications."
Alito has distanced himself from that memo, telling senators he wrote it as an advocate who was looking for a job in the conservative Reagan administration. During his confirmation hearing, he refused during to say whether he still believes that statement.
Alito did offer opinions on:
—The Miranda warning that comes from the 1966 decision requiring police to tell suspects they have the right to remain silent and to have an attorney present when answering questions. Alito said the Miranda decisions "caused me concern when I was in college."
"I was concerned about its effect on law enforcement at a time when the crime rate was rising noticeably.... Developments since my college years have allayed these concerns." he said, adding later, "The country has come to rely on Miranda, and reliance is a fact that counsels in favor of adherence to prior precedent."
—Recusing himself from Supreme Court decisions participated in by judges who endorsed his candidacy before the Judiciary Committee. "Based on what I know at this time, I do not think that the testimony of the court of appeals judges should require me to recuse myself in cases in which they sat," Alito said, though he noted that he would take past precedent and any arguments into account.
In Pennsylvania, a retiree filed a judicial misconduct complaint saying Alito failed to inform the Senate about the man's request that all members of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disqualify themselves from hearing his appeal.
"He failed to be honest and totally truthful with the committee," H. Gerard Heimbecker, 70, said Friday. He filed the complaint Monday; Alito was given a copy of the complaint Tuesday, a court clerk said in a letter.
Heimbecker wanted Alito and all the judges on the Philadelphia-based appellate court to recuse themselves from presiding over one of a series of legal actions triggered when the landlord of his sandwich shop did not renew his lease.
White House spokesman Stephen E. Schmidt called the complaint "more than frivolous, it's complete and total nonsense." He said he was uncertain whether Alito was obligated to disclose the case.