ACLU Urges Senate to Explore Supreme Court Nominee Alito's Record on Reproductive Rights, First Amendment

October 31, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the Senate to carefully examine the civil liberties record of Judge Samuel Alito, President Bush’s nominee to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the United States Supreme Court, especially given Justice O’Connor’s pivotal role on the court.

Judge Samuel Alito

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“Justice O’Connor has provided more than a swing vote,” said Steven R. Shapiro, the ACLU’s National Legal Director. “She has been a moderating voice on critical civil liberties issues ranging from race to religion to reproductive freedom. Judge Alito’s position on each of these issues has been more hostile to civil liberties than positions taken by Justice O’Connor. His nomination therefore calls into question the court’s delicate balance that Justice O’Connor has helped to shape and preserve.”

For example, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Judge Alito voted to uphold a state law that required women to notify their husbands before having an abortion. Justice O’Connor joined with a majority of the court in concluding otherwise. In addition, Judge Alito has been more willing to support state-sponsored religious displays than Justice O’Connor. And he has written several dissenting opinions on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that, if accepted, would have made it more difficult for discrimination victims to prevail and recover damages.

Judge Alito was appointed to the Third Circuit by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. He is a former United States Attorney and Justice Department official in the Reagan administration. Judge Alito is a graduate of Princeton and Yale Law School.

“This is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history,” said Anthony D. Romero, the ACLU’s Executive Director. “The administration is claiming unprecedented national security powers, reproductive rights are in jeopardy, the teaching of evolution is under attack, and we continue to struggle with a legacy of discrimination.

“The Supreme Court remains the ultimate safeguard of our constitutional liberties. The Senate has an obligation to ensure that Judge Alito understands and will protect the court’s vital position in our constitutional democracy,” Romero added.

In the coming weeks, the ACLU will prepare a complete report on Judge Alito’s civil liberties record. The ACLU will not oppose a Supreme Court nominee without a vote of its national board. There have been only two nominees to the court opposed by the ACLU- then-Justice William Rehnquist and Robert Bork. The ACLU did not oppose Rehnquist’s elevation to chief justice in 1986.

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