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Monday, November 14, 2005

Court Pick Described View on Abortion in '85 Document - New York Times

Court Pick Described View on Abortion in '85 Document - New York TimesNovember 14, 2005
Court Pick Described View on Abortion in '85 Document
By DAVID STOUT

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 - As a young lawyer seeking to move up in the Reagan administration in 1985, Samuel A. Alito Jr. declared that the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion.

In language certain to stoke heated debate at his January confirmation hearings, Mr. Alito, now President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, also expressed disapproval of Supreme Court decisions while Earl Warren was chief justice, including those that dealt with criminal procedures.

Mr. Alito, who was 35 in November 1985, when he made those statements in applying to become deputy assistant attorney general, said he was a committed conservative who had been influenced by the writings of William F. Buckley Jr. and Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign.

He said he had been honored to serve as assistant to the solicitor general "and to help to advance legal positions in which I personally believe very strongly."

"I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government has argued in the Supreme Court that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion," Mr. Alito, who is now a federal appeals court judge, wrote.

The statements, contained in a document made public today by the Reagan Presidential Library, after the contents were first reported by The Washington Times, is bound to stir interest when the Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings on Judge Alito's nomination in January.

The 10 Republicans on the panel include some of the Senate's most ardent abortion opponents, while the panel's 8 Democrats include some of the lawmakers most committed to preserving abortion rights. The chairman, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, is unusual in that he is a Republican who supports abortion rights.

If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Alito would replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who supports abortion rights and is regarded as a bridge between the court's conservative and liberal factions.

Conservatives would like to see the court move to the right, while moderates and liberals fear that very development. The confirmation hearings are expected to focus heavily on whether a Justice Alito would try to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established the right to have an abortion or the 1992 Casey v. Planned Parenthood ruling that reaffirmed it.

As a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, Judge Alito voted against abortion rights when the Casey case, from Pennsylvania, was before his tribunal.

Even without the abortion issue, the young Samuel Alito's disagreement with the Warren Court's decisions "in the areas of criminal procedure" and other issues offer plenty of grist for debate before the Judiciary Committee.

In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainright that the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed access to qualified counsel. In 1966, in Miranda v. Arizona, the court laid out strict police interrogation procedures to protect defendants' Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Judge Alito is certain to be asked how his views have evolved over the past two decades, if they have. In 1985, he said, "I am and always have been a conservative."

"I believe very strongly in limited government, federalism, free enterprise, the supremacy of the elected branches of government, the need for a strong defense and effective law enforcement, and the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values," he wrote.

That is the kind of language that appeals to conservatives. So does what he said about the role of judges: "I disagree strenuously with the usurpation by the judiciary of decision-making authority that should be exercised by the branches of government responsible to the electorate."

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