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Alito Hearings: Tuesday's Audio Highlights

Leahy and Kennedy confer at Alito's confirmation hearings.

Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT, left) confers with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) during the second day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, Jan. 10, 2006. Democrats used Tuesday's proceedings to challenge Alito on a range of issues. Reuters hide caption

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Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee used Tuesday's hearings — the first of three days of questioning of Judge Samuel Alito — to challenge Supreme Court nominee on a variety of issues. Most Republicans used their allotted time to endorse or pose supportive questions.

Hear Highlights from Tuesday's Hearing

ON ABORTION:

Although Alito did not say how he would vote if faced with overturning Roe v. Wade, he did say that stare decisis, the legal doctrine of respecting past precedent, was an "important" — but "not inexorable'" — doctrine for judges. Despite a 1985 memo in which he stated that the Constitution did not protect the right to abortion, Alito said he would approach the issue with an open mind. And he asserted that the Constitution protects a right to privacy — a legal underpinning of Roe.

Alito addresses the role of 'stare decisis,' the legal doctrine of respecting past precedent.
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Alito tells Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) that he'll approach abortion rights with an open mind despite the beliefs he espoused in a 1985 memo.
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Alito says he has not always upheld restrictions on abortion.
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Alito tells Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that the Constitution does protect a right to privacy.
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ON EXECUTIVE POWER:

Several senators expressed concern that, in past rulings and writings, Alito has too often deferred to the power of the executive branch at the expense of individual rights. The issue has taken on particular importance in light of recent revelations that President Bush authorized a warrantless domestic surveillance program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) questions Alito on whether the president has the authority to override the laws of Congress.
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Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) asks about a 1985 memo in which Alito upheld the 'supremacy of the elected branches of government.'
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Alito says that it can be difficult for judges to know how much to rely on the facts presented to it by the executive branch in a national security case -- and that the executive has misrepresented facts in the past.
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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) questions Alito on the role of the courts in interfering with the treatment of enemy combatants.
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ON WIRETAPS AND SEARCHES:

Democrats accused Alito of consistently favoring the aggressive use of government authority at the expense of individual rights. Several Democrats cited Doe v. Groody. In that case, Alito wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that police had the right to strip search a 10-year-old girl and her mother, even though neither was a suspect or named in the search warrant.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) on the 'Doe. V. Groody' case
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Alito tells Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that he does not believe the attorney general would have absolute immunity from civil liability for authorizing warrantless wiretaps. Alito argued for this immunity in a 1984 memo.
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Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) says Alito's rulings seem to favor the state rather than individual.
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ON JUDICIAL PHILOSOPHY:

When the Constitution is not specific on an issue, Alito says judges need to identify and apply the principle embodied in the document. In general, Alito believes judges should try to narrow their decision-making to the question at hand.

Responding to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Alito says he tries not to decide questions that are too broad.
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Answering Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Alito says judges should not try to produce particular results.
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Alito tells Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that the courts can have a role in creating a 'more just society' without resorting to judicial activism.
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Alito says that adhering to the principles of the Constitution can result in groundbreaking decisions such as 'Brown v. Board of Education.'
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ON DISCRIMINATION:

Democrats challenged Alito's personal and professional record on discrimination. On the personal front, Alito said he had no recollection of being a member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP), a group that Sen. Leahy described as being opposed to the admission of women and minorities to the school. Others said Alito had a habit of ruling against plaintiffs in discrimination cases.

Sen. Leahy (D-VT) challenges Alito's assertion that he did not recall his membership in CAP or espouse the group's beliefs.
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Responding to Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Alito says he has indeed ruled in favor of black plaintiffs.
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