As Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel Alito unfold, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have plenty of questions for President Bush’s nominee. Readers of TheNation.com–and at least one high-profile magazine editor–had plenty of questions as well, about Alito’s judicial philosophy, personal and political beliefs about his judicial philosophy, personal beliefs and political ideology. Here are some of the most thoughtful questions we’ve received so far:
Judge Alito: Since the “signing statement” has no stature or validity in Constitutional law, why have you recommended it so enthusiastically to the Reagan and Bush 43 presidential administrations? What possible purpose does it have except as a predicate to be quoted in case of impeachment?
Judge Alito: Do you think it’s appropriate, indeed ethical, for a sitting member of the Senate Judiciary Committee to take part in preparing a judicial nominee for committee hearings of which he himself will be taking part?
MICHAEL D. BROWN
Judge Alito: You have had numerous decisions overturned and you have voted even more in the minority. Is this the profile of a judge who understands our Constitution, or of someone who is out of touch with its meaning?
Judge Alito: You say that you would keep an open mind in regard to issues before the court, including those concerning the constitutionality of a woman’s right to an abortion. By “open mind,” do you mean that you could conceive of scenarios under which you would vote to retain a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion? If so, please give us two hypothetical examples of scenarios under which you would rule that women have a constitutional right to an abortion? If no such scenarios come to mind, what do you mean when you say that you have an “open mind” about this issue?
Question for Mr. Alito: Sir, do the males in your family enjoy robust health and a long life? Or do you suffer hereditary diseases and tend to pass on early?
A simple question that Alito would probably refuse to answer: “What questions did you answer for the President that you refuse to answer for us (the Senate)?”
Does the President of the United States, under the Constitution, have the right to issue statements on policy matters in God’s name?
Do you hold religious beliefs and commitments more sacred than your duty to interpret the Constitution?
SID B. THOMAS
Why not use the hearings, at least briefly, to explode the myth that it is liberal judges–as opposed to conservative judges–who are activists? To that end:
Judge Alito, what is your definition of a judicial activist? What things do you think we should look for in judging whether a particular judge is a judicial activist?
Do you think that part of what it means to not be a judicial activist involves trying whenever possible to uphold as opposed to striking down legislation adopted by the Congress?
Judge Alito, as I’m sure you’re aware, the Rehnquist Court, in recent years, has struck down as unconstitutional more federal statutes than at any other time in the history of the Supreme Court; one commentator has even suggested that the Court in recent years has been treating Congress more like a troublesome circuit court than as a co-equal branch of the federal government. Do you find this pattern troubling?