The American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it will oppose the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the United States Supreme Court.
"At a time when our president has claimed unprecedented authority to spy on Americans and jail terrorism suspects indefinitely, America needs a Supreme Court justice who will uphold our precious civil liberties," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "Unfortunately, Judge Alito's record shows a willingness to support government actions that abridge individual freedoms."
Throughout his career, Judge Alito has promoted an expansive view of executive authority and a limited view of the judicial role in curbing abuses of that authority. Two years ago, Justice O'Connor expressed what is at stake in these critical times when she wrote: "A state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."
Judge Alito has written a series of deeply troubling decisions on race, religion, and reproductive rights while sitting on the federal appeals court. For example, he voted to approve a law that would prevent a woman from having an abortion without consulting her husband. He has also assisted the Justice Department in attempts to narrow or eliminate some laws protecting civil rights. These are precisely the issues in which Justice O'Connor often cast a critical swing vote on a closely divided court.
The vote came after a special meeting of the ACLU's 83-member national board this weekend, which has opposed only two nominees in its 86-year history: Justice William Rehnquist (in his initial nomination to the Court) and former Solicitor General and law professor Robert Bork.
In December, the ACLU issued a 68-page report summarizing Judge Alito's record on civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU sent the report along with a letter expressing "deep concern" to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, urging the committee to conduct a thorough review of Judge Alito's record.
"That our current president authorized unlawful spying on American citizens is only the latest in a string of revelations about presidential overreaching," said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "We need a Justice who will respect and enforce constitutional limits on presidential power."
The ACLU's report on Judge Alito is online at www.aclu.org/images/asset_upload_file130_23216.pdf.
The ACLU's letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee is online at www.aclu.org/scotus/2005/23217leg20051222.html.
The ACLU's advertisements calling for a special counsel to investigate the President's illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens are online at www.aclu.org/safefree/spying/.