The confirmation process for Justice Samuel Alito showcased what has become a much divided Senate and highlighted the political partisanship that represents a real danger to future confirmation proceedings.
Unlike Chief Justice Roberts, who sailed through the Senate confirmation process, Justice Samuel Alito triggered more opposition for one very simple reason he was replacing Justice Sandra Day OConnor the swing vote on many of the most critical cultural and political issues of the day.
Like Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito had a wealth of experience in the legal arena. Serving as a federal appeals court judge for some 15 years, Justice Alito issued decisions on thousands of cases his writings and reasoning open to all for review.
When he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, then-Judge Alito revealed his true conservative judicial philosophy one that is embraced by most Americans.
A judge can't have any agenda, Judge Alito told the Committee. The judge's only obligation -- and it's a solemn obligation -- is to the rule of law. And what that means is that in every single case, the judge has to do what the law requires. He added: There is nothing that is more important for our republic than the rule of law. No person in this country, no matter how high or powerful, is above the law, and no person in this country is beneath the law.
The rule of law. The Constitution. Judge Alito clearly and repeatedly articulated that he understands the limited role of the federal judiciary and is committed to upholding the Constitution not legislating from the bench. Those ideals should be the cornerstone of the judicial philosophy for every Supreme Court justice. And even though Judge Alito spent many hours testifying about his judicial philosophy and how he would approach his work on the high court, the troubling attacks surfaced.
A small number of Democrats pounded on Judge Alito even bringing his wife to tears. The attacks were unfair and unrelenting and exposed the extremely partisan side of politics. The process sank to a new low when Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts launched an 11th hour attempt to filibuster Judge Alito. The filibuster never got any traction and the Senate voted 72-to-25 to end debate to end the filibuster and to move for a vote by the full Senate. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist declared: The sword of the filibuster has been sheathed. The final hurdle had been cleared.
Judge Alito went on to become Justice Alito by a vote of 58-to-42. The margin was no where near the 78-to-22 margin Chief Justice Roberts received. But Senate Democrats wouldnt let that happen in the case of Justice Alito. The already politically charged atmosphere in the Senate became even more heated over this nomination.
And that could spell trouble for future nominations. Senator Frist was correct when he warned that the highly partisan attacks could prompt qualified judicial candidates to take a pass on future nominations staying clear of what has become a confirmation cauldron in the Senate because the process is too brutal and partisan.
After the bruising Senate battle, Justice Alito was sworn-in as the 110th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. He thanked the many Americans who supported his nomination.
I will just conclude by saying that the many letters that I've received over the past three months have reminded me how much the people of the United States revere our Constitution and our form of government, and how much they look to the Supreme Court of the United States to protect our form of government and our freedoms. That is an awesome responsibility. And in light of that, I think it's only -- only very simple and very sincere words are appropriate in closing. And so I simply pledge that I will do everything in my power to live up to the trust that has been placed in me.
A Supreme Court justice must meet the highest standard of legal excellence, while serving with humility and fidelity to our founding promise of equal justice under the law, said President Bush at the swearing-in ceremony. These are qualities Americans want in a Supreme Court justice. These are qualities Americans see in Sam Alito. He will make a superb justice of the Supreme Court, and I know this son of New Jersey will make all Americans proud.
Yes, Justice Samuel Alito will make all Americans proud. His confirmation truly was a proud moment for our nation and for the high court. But, as Americans, we must reject the strategy of character assassination and the tactic of obstructionism employed by some Senators during the process. That is nothing to be proud of.
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