Friday, January 06, 2006

Q's and A's That Must Occur During the Hearing on Judge Alito

Monday morning Judge Samuel Alito will finally stand before the Senate Judiciary Committee and begin the process of replacing moderate Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the nation's highest court.

We anticipate that Judge Alito will be confirmed to the Supreme Court, albeit by a slim margin, but that doesn't mean that Mr. Alito should not have to answer some tough questions, particularly in the area of civil rights, civil liberties and voting rights. In the wake of the spy scandal, the Abramoff indictment, the Iraq War, the tenuous nature of the PATRIOT Act and the Scooter Libby indictment and a brief scan of the Sunday talk shows we are concerned that executive powers and abortion will dominate the hearings and the coverage of the hearings.

While those issues are important, people of color should be demanding questions from Senators and answers from the Judge on the decisions that will affect their everyday life and ability to choose their representation. Samuel Alito has in his 15 years on the bench, writings and job applications before his judgeship shown dissatisfaction and at times outright hostility to diversity and the concept of one person one vote.

During his time at Princeton Mr. Alito join a club which thought Princeton's diversity outreach was unnecessary and wrong. He once said that the Earl Warren Court, the Court that extended civil rights, went too far and that he disagreed with Baker v. Carr, the landmark case that instilled the principle of one person one vote and once said in a case that it was alright to strip search a 10 year old girl even though she wasn't named in the warrant.

Inflammatory statements about and opposition to diversity, voting rights and support for expanded and unchecked executive privilege should be a red flag of mammoth proportion and demand a thorough questioning and substantive answers. Not the tap dance answer game most nominees and the Senators engage in most of the time. This seat is too important and the issues of the day too critical to play the normal Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance game.

We understand the judge is conservative and the president has a right to nominate an active conservative ideological justice, which Judge Alito seems to be. But the public also has a right to know how ideological and how active Judge Alito will be on the court. Will he be like Justices Scalia and Thomas? Or will he be within the judicial mainstream, respecting legal precedent? We hope the Senators will ask pointed enough questions to find out his position on the judicial spectrum.

We hope that Senators on both sides of the aisle will grill the Judge on issues beyond abortion and executive power and privilege, and we hope that the media will not allow the other political stories to overshadow the hearings and give equal coverage to questions and answers regarding civil rights, voting rights and civil liberties.