Midway through the second day of testimony in the confirmation hearing of Samuel Alito, his continuing refusal to give clear answers to direct questions about his record on core issues of privacy and personal liberty is wearing thin, said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas.
“Samuel Alito just won’t give a straight answer,” said Neas. “And senators’ questions are helping explain why: Judge Alito doesn’t want Americans to understand that his record reflects a consistent pattern of ruling against average people and their personal privacy – and ruling in favor of corporations and government power.”
Neas noted that Alito told Senator Dick Durbin that his 1985 statement that the Constitution does not protect a woman’s right to choose accurately reflected his view at the time, but he repeatedly refused to say whether that is still his view, and refused to say whether Roe v. Wade is settled law. (Even John Roberts was willing to testify that Roe was settled law.) Alito similarly refused to give a clear answer on choice under intense questioning from Sen. Schumer at the end of the first day of testimony and from Sen. Feinstein today.
Alito also tried to dismiss as a “technical issue of interpretation” a case in which he dissented from a ruling by two Reagan-appointed judges that a coal processing facility and its workers were covered under federal mine safety regulations. Alito would have ruled that the coal processing facility wasn’t a mine, and therefore it was not covered under the federal Mine Safety & Health Act, leaving its workers uncovered by the law’s protections. Sen. Durbin cited the case as part of a pattern of decisions by Judge Alito that suggested average people would be left to the “crushing hand of fate” if Alito were on the Supreme Court.
Senator Tom Coburn tried to help Alito out by announcing that he was placing into the record a list of cases in which he said Alito ruled for “the little guy” – and announced that the list had a mere nine cases. Senator Hatch also tried to blunt the impact of Alito’s record by cherry-picking a few cases that he said showed Judge Alito defended the interests of individuals. By contrast, independent studies of hundreds of Alito opinions have found that Judge Alito overwhelmingly rules against individuals. University of Chicago Law Professor Cass Sunstein has written that when there is a conflict between institutions and individual rights, Judge Alito’s dissenting opinions argue against individual rights 84 percent of the time. George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley has said Alito’s record reflects a “raw form of judicial bias.”
Senator Coburn also placed into the record a letter of support for Alito from a woman who is the president-elect of the National Association of Women Lawyers. But Senator Coburn didn’t mention that the woman was dropped from the Republican witness list after the organization she has been elected to lead concluded that Alito’s record is so bad for women’s rights and interests that he was not qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. Neas also noted that a Republican organization, Republican Majority for Choice, announced its opposition to Alito’s confirmation today.
Senator Ted Kennedy grilled Alito on his membership in the reactionary Concerned Alumni of Princeton and on Alito’s attempts to distance himself from the group’s reprehensible record and rhetoric on women, racial minorities, and gay and lesbian students. Alito has repeatedly said he does not remember why he joined the organization, though he asserted today that his membership would have had nothing to do with these issues for which CAP was most notorious. Yesterday, he said he was not aware of controversies surrounding the organization. Neas called Alito’s testimony on CAP “disingenuous and difficult to take seriously.”
“Americans want a Supreme Court justice who understands how the law affects ordinary Americans,” said Neas. “The evidence is increasingly clear that Samuel Alito is the wrong choice for the job.”