Tuesday, November 15, 2005

NYT: "'85 Document Opens Window to Alito Views" (David D. Kirkpatrick)

Applying for a promotion in the Reagan administration 20 years ago, Samuel A. Alito Jr. described himself as a thoroughgoing conservative "particularly proud" of contributing to cases arguing "that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."
The job application, disclosed on Monday by the White House and first reported by The Washington Times, provides a new window into the deeply conservative roots of the legal views held at the time by Judge Alito, now a Supreme Court nominee.
Although his views may have changed, any hint of Judge Alito's legal philosophy is of keen interest to partisans on both sides of the debate over his nomination because he would succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the swing vote on abortion rights and other social issues.

The above is from David D. Kirkpatrick's "'85 Document Opens Window to Alito Views" in this morning's New York Times and Susan, Terence, Joan and Shirley all e-mailed to ask that it be the spotlight this morning.

And it ties in with what Erika e-mails to note, Kate Michelman's "This Time, Alito, It's Personal" (Common Dreams):

Looking back more than three decades to one of the most difficult times in my life, it's hard to say what seems more insulting: being forced to obtain my husband's permission to have an abortion after he had just abandoned my family or -- many years later -- Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s ruling that a similar requirement was not, in constitutional parlance, an "undue burden."
In 1969 -- in those distant but suddenly closer days before Roe vs. Wade -- my husband deserted me and our three small daughters. After learning I was pregnant, and making the wrenchingly personal decision to have an abortion, I was forced to submit to an invasive and humiliating interrogation before a hospital review board in Pennsylvania. It ultimately gave its permission. I was in the hospital preparing for the procedure when a nurse informed me I would need my husband's permission too. I found him a few days later and he gave it.
In the 1992 case of Casey vs. Planned Parenthood, Alito voted to uphold a Pennsylvania law requiring women to notify their husbands before having an abortion. Such a requirement, he ruled, was not an "undue burden" on most women. The vast majority of women, he noted, voluntarily discuss an abortion with their husbands, while the law provided a nominal exception for women in the most extreme circumstances, such as abusive relationships.
The only women who would be burdened were all those left in the middle -- women like me, women in extraordinary and individualized circumstances that neither laws nor legal standards could possibly anticipate.
Alito's opinion in essence said the only women the law would burden were those for whom it was burdensome; his standard appeared to be that individual rights could be restricted provided that not too many individuals were at stake.
That is precisely the problem with government regulating private lives. Politicians do not know how laws will affect each individualized case. Courtrooms are a citizen's last refuge from unjust laws. When judges do not see those in their courtrooms as whole people and diverse individuals, that final constitutional safeguard is eviscerated.

e-mails to note a scheduled topic for today's Democracy Now!:

* We look at the issue of torture. We talk to a former army interrogator who alleges that the military routinely engaged in torture in Iraq.

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