From left: Civil right attorney Fred Gray; former president of NARAL Kate Michelman; professor Ronald Sullivan; and professor Amanda Frost testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about Judge Samuel Alito, Jan. 13, 2006.
The Senate Judiciary Committee concluded a week of hearings on the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito on Friday with testimony from witnesses for and against the Supreme Court nominee. The panels included advocates, judges and former Alito law clerks and colleagues.
Supporters praised Alito's judiciousness and open-minded approach to cases. Opponents expressed concern about the nominee's respect for civil liberties and privacy rights and what they see as his overly deferential view toward the presidency regarding the authority of the chief executive.
A Judge in Whose Mold?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) asked one set of panelists which past Supreme Court justice they thought Alito would resemble if he is confirmed to the high court. Many said his approach would likely follow that of current conservative justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. One panelist mentioned Justice John Marshall Harlan (1899–1971), the intellectual leader of the conservatives on the Warren Court, while another pointed to Justice Robert Jackson (1892-1954), an advocate of judicial restraint.
Hear the panelists respond. In order: Erwin Chemerinsky; Anthony Kronman; Beth Nolan; Charles Fried; and Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe.
Anthony Kronman: The Yale law school professor and former Alito classmate praises the judge for his 'modesty,' 'caution' and 'judiciousness.'
Nora Demleitner: The Hofstra University law professor is a former Alito clerk and self-described 'left-leaning Democrat.' She says the judge is 'not doctrinaire.'
Harvard law professor and former solicitor general Charles Fried praises Alito's 'scrupulous' answers to the committee when asked whether 'Roe v. Wade' and other legal precedents are 'settled law.'
Jack White: The African-American attorney clerked for Alito from 2003-2004. He says, 'I saw Judge Alito treat everyone... with dignity and respect.'
Kate Michelman, the former president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, tells the committee that Alito 'rejects the idea of personal privacy as a fundamental American ideal.'
Beth Nolan: The former Clinton administration official says that the theory of a 'unitary executive' which Alito has endorsed might be used to justify extended presidential powers beyond a limited wartime period.
Erwin Chemerinsky: The Duke University law professor tells Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that nothing in Alito's record indicates he will enforce checks and balances on the executive branch.
Theodore Shaw: The president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund says Alito's judicial record on civil rights is 'extremely troubling.'