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The New York Times
January 12, 2006
Judge Alito, in His Own Words
Some commentators are complaining that Judge Samuel Alito Jr.'s confirmation hearings have not been exciting, but they must not have been paying attention. We learned that Judge Alito had once declared that Judge Robert Bork - whose Supreme Court nomination was defeated because of his legal extremism - "was one of the most outstanding nominees" of the 20th century. We heard Judge Alito refuse to call Roe v. Wade "settled law," as Chief Justice John Roberts did at his confirmation hearings. And we learned that Judge Alito subscribes to troubling views about presidential power.
Those are just a few of the quiet bombshells that have dropped. In his deadpan bureaucrat's voice, Judge Alito has said some truly disturbing things about his view of the law. In three days of testimony, he has given the American people reasons to be worried - and senators reasons to oppose his nomination. Among those reasons are the following:
EVIDENCE OF EXTREMISM Judge Alito's extraordinary praise of Judge Bork is unsettling, given that Judge Bork's radical legal views included rejecting the Supreme Court's entire line of privacy cases, even its 1965 ruling striking down a state law banning sales of contraceptives. Judge Alito's membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton - a group whose offensive views about women, minorities and AIDS victims were discussed in greater detail at yesterday's hearing - is also deeply troubling, as is his unconvincing claim not to remember joining it.
OPPOSITION TO ROE V. WADE In 1985, Judge Alito made it clear that he believed the Constitution does not protect abortion rights. He had many chances this week to say he had changed his mind, but he refused. When offered the chance to say that Roe is a "super-precedent," entitled to special deference because it has been upheld so often, he refused that, too. As Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, noted in particularly pointed questioning, since Judge Alito was willing to say that other doctrines, like one person one vote, are settled law, his unwillingness to say the same about Roe strongly suggests that he still believes what he believed in 1985.
SUPPORT FOR AN IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY Judge Alito has backed a controversial theory known as the "unitary executive," and argued that the attorney general should be immune from lawsuits when he installs illegal wiretaps. Judge Alito backed away from one of his most extreme statements in this area - his assertion, in a 1985 job application, that he believed "very strongly" in "the supremacy of the elected branches of government." But he left a disturbing impression that as a justice, he would undermine the Supreme Court's critical role in putting a check on presidential excesses.
INSENSITIVITY TO ORDINARY AMERICANS' RIGHTS Time and again, as a lawyer and a judge, the nominee has taken the side of big corporations against the "little guy," supported employers against employees, and routinely rejected the claims of women, racial minorities and the disabled. The hearing shed new light on his especially troubling dissent from a ruling by two Reagan-appointed judges, who said that workers at a coal-processing site were covered by Mine Safety and Health Act protections.
DOUBTS ABOUT THE NOMINEE'S HONESTY Judge Alito's explanation of his involvement with Concerned Alumni of Princeton is hard to believe. In a 1985 job application, he proudly pointed to his membership in the organization. Now he says he remembers nothing of it - except why he joined, which he insists had nothing to do with the group's core concerns. His explanation for why he broke his promise to Congress to recuse himself in any case involving Vanguard companies is also unpersuasive. As for his repeated claims that his past statements on subjects like abortion and Judge Bork never represented his personal views or were intended to impress prospective employers - all that did was make us wonder why we should give any credence to what he says now.
The debate over Judge Alito is generally presented as one between Republicans and Democrats. But his testimony should trouble moderate Republicans, especially those who favor abortion rights or are concerned about presidential excesses. The hearings may be short on fireworks, but they have produced, through Judge Alito's words, an array of reasons to be concerned about this nomination.
January 12, 2006
Report Cards on the Alito Hearing (9 Letters)
To the Editor:
Re "Alito, at Hearing, Pledges an Open Mind on Abortion" (front page, Jan. 11):
Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., in his confirmation hearing, has shown himself to be a conservative-minded judge.
In practical terms, if confirmed and unless the judge changes his stripes, he would stand for a narrower view of judicial power, greater deference to the other branches of government, a friendlier view of federalist principles and a narrower view of individual rights not expressly stated in the Constitution.
The proper role for each senator will be to decide whether the balance of the Supreme Court should shift to a more conservative view collectively. Each senator will represent 1 percent of the wisdom and responsibility of the Senate in determining the makeup of the court.
While with this nomination the philosophical direction of the court will likely be determined for a long time to come, both the presidency and Congress are subject to review by the rest of us more often.
What happens now may well determine the outcomes of many elections to come in the near future.
East Hampton, N.Y., Jan. 11, 2006
To the Editor:
Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. assures us that the president is not above the law. Not even the president's most fervent apologists assert that he is.
The administration asserts that under the law the president, when acting in his constitutional capacity as commander in chief, may do whatever he wants, unfettered by laws passed by Congress. It is on this doctrine that we need to know Judge Alito's opinion.
New York, Jan. 11, 2006
To the Editor:
Re "But Enough About You, Judge; Let's Hear What I Have to Say" (front page, Jan. 11):
Do Senators Edward M. Kennedy, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Patrick J. Leahy really think that they are helping their party's cause by pontificating before the cameras, hardly giving Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. a chance to answer their questions, when they ever get around to asking one?
It's bad enough that the best they can come up with are questions about the judge's membership in a conservative college alumni group, his views on abortion back in 1985 and a perceived conflict of interest in a mutual fund case. But do they also have to make fools of themselves and the party they represent?
As a Democrat, I'm embarrassed. My only consolation is that the hearings take place during the daytime, when most people are at work and unavailable to have their time wasted, like Judge Alito's.
Robert J. Inlow
Charlottesville, Va., Jan. 11, 2006
To the Editor:
Your article implies that the senators, in talking more than Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., are somehow depriving the public of valuable information. But it's clear that anything Judge Alito might say will have no real consequences. No votes will change; he will be confirmed.
Nor will anything he says add to our ability to predict how he will rule in future cases.
He has been coached by White House handlers to avoid making statements that are either specific or contentious. Moreover, once on the bench, he is completely free to decide however he wishes regardless of any statements he makes to the Judiciary Committee.
So what's wrong with letting the senators have a few days to voice their views on the law? Judge Alito will have a lifetime.
New York, Jan. 11, 2006
To the Editor:
Re "Fairness in the Alito Hearings" (editorial, Jan. 11):
You say it's unfortunate that federal appeals court judges who know Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. (who are not partisan liberals or conservatives) are coming to his defense.
Your editorial page, which has clearly been against Judge Alito since he was nominated, is worried.
You write: This is "a move that could reasonably be construed as a partisan gesture. The judges will be doing harm to the federal bench."
The harm to the federal bench comes from senators and editorial boards demanding that prospective jurists pledge allegiance to or disdain for a single issue, Roe v. Wade.
Succasunna, N.J., Jan. 11, 2006
To the Editor:
Maureen Dowd points to the difficulty of learning anything at a confirmation hearing from a Supreme Court nominee about his past or present position on any matter that is the least bit controversial ("Doing the Alito Shuffle," column, Jan. 11).
All the nominee has to do is repeat the mantra "I will approach that issue, if it comes before me, with an open mind."
I fear that this answer will now be repeated every time a judicial nominee comes to a confirmation hearing.
When he is on the bench, we will find out what President Bush has done to the court with this nomination.
Newton, Mass., Jan. 11, 2006
To the Editor:
On Monday, Senator Edward M. Kennedy complained that Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. has "supported a level of overreaching presidential power that, frankly, most Americans find disturbing and even frightening" ("Partisan Tenor of Alito Hearing Reflects a Quick Change in Washington," news article, Jan. 10).
Actually, Senator Kennedy, more Americans are disturbed and frightened that Congress has in effect abdicated its responsibility to our constitutional system and representative democracy by repeatedly sanctioning excessive executive power.
The framers of the Constitution recognized, as James Madison said, that "war is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement," which is why they deliberately and explicitly placed the power to wage war in Congress's hands. The Supreme Court, with its lack of enforcement power and limited jurisdiction, is poorly situated to rein in executive power.
If anyone is going to pull the plug, it's going to have to be Congress.
Buck up, boys and girls. It's going to be a bumpy ride.
Lisa L. Miller
New Brunswick, N.J., Jan. 10, 2006
The writer is an assistant political science professor at Rutgers University.
To the Editor:
Re "Alito Says Judges Shouldn't Bring Agenda to Cases" (front page, Jan. 10):
Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. says he will not bring an agenda to the Supreme Court. If that is so, why have his writings and his rulings almost always favored executive prerogatives and corporate power?
Athens, Ga., Jan. 10, 2006
To the Editor:
Re "Sam He Was," by Caren Deane Thomas (Op-Ed, Jan. 7):
President Bush and numerous conservatives have asserted that Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s conservative personal opinions are irrelevant to the way he makes his judicial decisions. If that is true, why nominate a conservative at all?
By Mr. Bush's logic, he could just as readily nominate a far-left bleeding heart to the Supreme Court so long as that person set aside personal beliefs when making decisions on the law. But somehow I can't imagine that happening.
Venice, Calif., Jan. 7, 2006
NY Times Editorial: Fairness in the Alito Hearings
Lebanese group tackles biggest taboo
by Christian Henderson in Beirut
Thursday 05 January 2006 6:51 PM GMT
Cover of Lebanon's latest gay publication in Arabic
Being gay in the Arab world is not easy. Homosexual behaviour is criminalised in all Arab countries and arrests of people accused of being involved in purportedly unnatural acts are frequent.
In 2001, Egyptian police arrested and detained 52 gay men, including one minor, who the authorities said had engaged in lewdness at a party on a private boat along the Nile shoreline.
Twenty-three of the men received severe prison sentences for among other things, contempt of religion.
In Abu Dhabi in November police broke up a so-called gay wedding and arrested scores of men. UAE officials said they would inject suspects with hormones although they later denied the treatment took place.
The very few Arab gays who are bold enough to publicly identify themselves as homosexual often face alienation from their friends and family.
Some countries in the region have laws penalising homosexuals with the death sentence and death threats against homosexuals by angry relatives are not unheard of.
But amid regular reports of draconian measures, one group of gay activists in Lebanon is challenging what is one of the biggest taboos in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Helem, an acronym in Arabic for the "Lebanese protection of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community", is the first public gay-rights group in the Arab world.
Many states in the region have laws penalising homosexuals
A non-governmental, non-profit organisation registered in Quebec, Canada, it maintains support groups in Australia, France and the US as well.
Last summer, the group released a quarterly magazine for gays and lesbians - the first widely distributed gay publication in the Arabic language.
Entitled Barra (Arabic for "Out") the magazine has been accessed over the internet by readers across the Arab world and the website receives 60,000 hits a month.
Five per cent of the hits come from Lebanon, 6% from Saudi Arabia, and the remaining hits come from other Arab countries and unidentifiable sources.
"The target is lesbian gay, bisexual and trans-sexual people and to help Lebanese and Arab society understand more of this section of society that is completely alienated," says George Azzi, Helem's coordinator.
Intolerant status quo
"We are trying to fight this [intolerant status quo], this was the idea behind the magazine. To have a voice, a voice that was completely shut down," Azzi said while sitting in Helem's office in a Beirut villa.
He said Helem had to overcome resistance from many gays in Lebanon who were fearful of the consequences of appearing publicly.
"Helem was rejected by a big part of the community because they didn't want anything that visible"
"Helem was rejected by a big part of the community because they didn't want anything that visible. They wanted to stay invisible," he says.
Although homosexuality is still illegal in Lebanon, Helem is now able to work openly and there are bars and cafes where gays are able to openly congregate. The group has taken part in several public events including the Beirut marathon.
Helem has also registered itself with the Lebanese authorities suggesting that the government is at least willing to tolerate such an organisation.
Some activists say homosexuality is on the verge of being decriminalised and expect a change in the law within a year.
But while gays in Lebanon appear to be making strides, Helem acknowledge that the situation in other Arab countries is very different.
"In other countries it's either the lack of a strong civil society or a conservative society where there is no space to come out," Helem activist Ghassan Makarem says.
Often pressure from religious conservatives motivates governments to crack down on gays.
"The only solution is to persuade the religious leaders that they don't need to control everything," Azzi says.
"We are not in the business of outing people"
The gay movement in the Arab world also faces larger questions concerning the definition of sexuality in societies where sexual orientation has sometimes been harder to classify than in the West.
Helem say they recognise the risks of using definitions that may not be accurate for the Arab world.
"The way that Islamic societies look at sex in general is completely different from Europe," Makarem says.
Wary of West
The group is also wary about emulating Western gay rights groups who have often taken militant stances including the naming of homosexuals who had sought to keep their sexuality a secret.
International gay-rights groups have been accused of being "missionaries" who used terminology that could not be applied to sexual habits in Middle Eastern societies.
"I don't think they really understand the priorities here," says Makarem. "They might turn the issue into something that movement is not ready for."
"We know there are lots of (gay) people in the parliament, in the government, in the media and public personalities. But we are not in the business of outing people."
By Christian Henderson in Beirut
You can find this article at:
January 11, 2006 latimes.com
Taking Sides on Same-Sex Marriage
Political, religious and civil rights groups file briefs as the legal fight over gay unions builds.
By Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
SAN FRANCISCO — In a preview of California's looming court battle over same-sex marriage, scores of religious, civil rights and conservative groups filed briefs on both sides of the issue.
Filing in support of the right of gays and lesbians to marry was a broad coalition of more than 250 organizations — including the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, women's groups and Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist leaders.
More than two dozen Asian and Pacific Islander groups also signed on to a brief that compared restrictions on gay unions to laws that once banned interracial marriage. The briefs were filed Monday.
"As an Asian American whose ancestors were denied equal rights and protections under California law, I recognize the profound harm caused by denying lesbian and gay people the ability to protect their families through marriage," Victor Hwang, an attorney with Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, wrote in a brief.
The case challenging the constitutionality of existing state law restricting marriage to heterosexuals is before the state Court of Appeal, which is expected to hear arguments this spring. The California Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case by late this year or next year.
California will become the most important state in the country to decide the issue in the courts.
Legislation legalizing same-sex marriage is also expected to be reintroduced soon (the governor vetoed one such bill last year), and conservatives are pushing for a constitutional amendment that would ban such unions and preempt actions by the courts and Legislature.
Plaintiffs challenging existing law — among them a dozen same-sex couples and the city and county of San Francisco — won their case in San Francisco Superior Court last year. The state attorney general appealed, along with conservative Christian groups who believe that same-sex marriage is unnatural and unhealthy for children raised in the unions.
Attorneys for the same-sex couples applauded the broad show of support evidenced by the amicus briefs as "inspiring."
"It tells me we've passed some kind of turning point of public understanding — that this is a civil rights issue that matters," said Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel for the Western regional office of the Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund.
State Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer has argued that domestic partner benefits provide adequate protections and rights to gays and lesbians.
His office did not coordinate any support from those filing amicus briefs.