WASHINGTON (BP)–Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito received highly favorable reviews from pro-life and conservative observers after his four-day appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The committee listened to the final witnesses on Alito’s nomination Jan. 13, a day after the panel members completed their questioning of the judge from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The committee vote is scheduled Jan. 17, with a confirmation vote on the Senate floor planned Jan. 20. It is uncertain if Senate Democrats, however, will delay committee action or attempt to filibuster the nomination in an effort to block an up-or-down confirmation decision.
By the time Alito fielded the last question from the committee, it appeared unlikely opponents would be able to prevent his confirmation. His performance under constant pressure from the eight Democrats on the panel seemed only to help his cause.
“Judge Alito has shown that he has all of the qualifications anyone could possibly want in a Supreme Court justice,” said Southern Baptist public policy specialist Barrett Duke, who attended parts of the hearings held in the Hart Senate Office Building. “He will be an impartial judge, making his decisions based on his understanding of the intent of our founding documents.
“Will he always decide the way I would want him to? Probably not, but I am confident that he will make his decisions based on what he understands the law to dictate, not on what he thinks ought to be done,” said Duke, vice president for public policy and research of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “I can live with that. I’m not so sure some of our Democrat senators can, however.”
Duke also commended Alito’s poise in response to his critics’ questioning of his record and character.
“Alito answered practically all of the questions put to him, even if the same questions had been asked time and time again,” Duke said. “In spite of repeated attempts to undermine him, he maintained his composure and answered the same questions politely and respectfully.”
Constitutional lawyer Jordan Lorence told Baptist Press that Alito’s responses to the Democrats’ frequent questions about his view of Roe v. Wade “were very appropriate in the context that he’s being evaluated.”
Alito told his questioners that Roe, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, is a precedent deserving respect, but he also refused to say unequivocally the ruling is the “settled law of the land.” He agreed with the legal doctrine of stare decisis, which says a court should not overturn its own decision unless there is a compelling reason to do so, but he said it is not an “inexorable command.” Alito acknowledged he advocated a pro-life position in 1985 as a Department of Justice lawyer but said he would have an “open mind” regarding Roe if he were confirmed.
“It is inappropriate for him to say, ‘Yeah, I’m going to rule this way or that way,” said Lorence, senior vice president of the Alliance Defense Fund.
The abortion-rights advocates’ “obsessive veneration of Roe v. Wade is totally inappropriate,” said Lorence, who was in Washington for the hearings. “That’s not the way the Supreme Court treats precedent.”
Alito is “not intimidated or cowed by politically popular ideas” and is therefore willing to express opinions that are not politically correct, Lorence said.
After reviewing Alito’s opinions, he was “very, very impressed with his religious liberty and free speech cases,” Lorence told BP, adding the nominee has a “very high view of individual freedom, and that’s what we need.”
Lorence was impressed after the hearings that Alito is “firmly committed to the judicial philosophy of judicial restraint” and a “man of sterling character,” Lorence said, adding he was “amazed at his breadth of knowledge.”
“He’s the kind of man that we want on the Supreme Court,” Lorence said.
Alito’s performance gave Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, a “greater appreciation” of his brilliance and knowledge of constitutional law.”
“If anyone ever questioned the meaning of judicial temperament, they’ve seen him display it in the midst of baseless attacks on his record and character,” LaRue said in a written release. “Led by Senators [Edward] Kennedy, [Dianne] Feinstein, [Richard] Durbin and [Charles] Schumer, liberals have failed miserably in their attempt to discredit this outstanding nominee. If anything, they only proved that Alito has nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of and everything to be admired for.”
Leaders of abortion-rights and other liberal organizations expressed the opposite reaction, especially regarding Alito’s unwillingness to endorse Roe.
“Alito confirmed that in 1985 he endorsed a legal philosophy that the Constitution does not protect the right to choose but refused to state his current legal and judicial philosophy on the issue,” NARAL Pro-choice America President Nancy Keenan said in a written statement. “He said nothing this week to lead Americans to believe that he still doesn’t hold these views. It is clear that Americans who value freedom and privacy cannot support confirming him to a lifetime position on the Supreme Court.”
If confirmed, Alito will replace Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who announced her retirement in July. She has continued to serve on the high court, however, until her replacement is confirmed.