Sen. Nelson on the Nomination of Judge Samuel Alito Jr.
January 25, 2006
Mr. President: The gospel promises all of us impartiality at judgment. And, I would suggest impartiality – or, justice for all - is a principle embedded deep in our constitutional democracy. I believe in an America where courts address injustice, and correct it. I believe in an America where our judges serve the people by interpreting the Constitution - without agenda. I may have no greater responsibility in the Senate than to be charged by our Constitution with advising the president on his picks for the United States Supreme Court. And in assuming this awesome responsibility, I rise today to oppose Judge Alito’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Soon, the Supreme Court likely will hear cases about protecting our personal privacy from government and corporate intrusion; and about the sharing of power between Congress and the president. These decisions will have an important affect on each of our lives, and on the future of our nation. Over the past few weeks, I held numerous town hall meetings at which residents shared their thoughts and opinions on Judge Alito. That’s one reason why I carefully studied his record over the past fifteen years on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. During his time on the bench, Judge Alito ruled on cases ranging from the rights of individuals to the stewardship of the environment. After his testimony before the Judiciary Committee, I was concerned that he more often than not ruled in favor of big government and big corporations over the ordinary American. Following the hearings, I personally met with Judge Alito to discuss my concerns. I explained how much a recent Supreme Court decision has frightened many of my constituents. They fear their homes can now be seized by the government to make way for a private developer’s project. While he expressed sympathy for the parties whose homes had been seized, he offered no misgivings whatsoever about the legal reasoning that led to that outcome. I am concerned about his rulings in other cases pitting the government against individuals -- over issues ranging from the environment to workers’ rights to racial discrimination. In Public Interest Research Group of New Jersey v. Magnesium Elektron, he established high barriers to prevent individuals from being able to sue polluters for violations of the Clean Water Act. The Supreme Court later rejected his reasoning by a vote of 7-2. In Chittister v. Department of Community and Economic Development, he ruled that state employees could not sue for damages to enforce their rights under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Again, the Supreme Court later reversed this ruling by a vote of 6-3. In Riley v. Taylor, he ruled that there was no basis for appeal in a death penalty case in which prosecutors had used their peremptory challenges to exclude black jurors from the jury pool. The full Third Circuit later heard this case and overturned Judge Alito’s ruling. These and other cases highlight the broader concerns I have with Judge Alito’s record. Mr. President, during my years in the Senate, I have voted for almost all of President Bush's judicial nominees. All told, I have voted for 216, or 96 percent of the president's 226 judicial picks, including Chief Justice John Roberts. And I greeted Judge Alito's nomination with an open mind. But his many legal writings, judicial opinions and evasive answers both at his hearing and in my private meeting with him, convinced me he would tilt the scales of justice against the average Joe. Because he is not the centrist voice I believe this nation needs to replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who fiercely defended the rights and liberties of all Americans, I'm going to vote no on this confirmation.