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Judge Samuel Alito Nominated to U.S. Supreme Court

October 31, 2005 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: Just days after seeing his nomination of Harriet Miers collapse, President Bush this morning presented his new candidate for the Supreme Court. 55-year-old Samuel Alito, Jr., a native of New Jersey, spent six years as a lawyer in the Reagan White House and Justice Department and three as a U.S. Attorney. He spent the past 15 years sitting on the third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Judge Alito is one of the most accomplished and respected judges in America. And his long career and public service has given him an extraordinary breadth of experience.

As a Justice Department official, federal prosecutor, and judge on the United States Court of Appeals, Sam Alito has shown a mastery of the law, a deep commitment of justice and he is a man of enormous character.

JEFFREY BROWN: After bitter criticism of Harriet Miers’ lack of judicial experience, the president stressed his new nominee’s record on the third circuit.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Judge Alito has served with distinction on that court for 15 years and now has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years.

Judge Alito’s reputation has only grown over the span of his service. He has participated in thousands of appeals and authored hundreds of opinions. His record reveals a thoughtful judge who considers the legal merits carefully and applies the law in a principled fashion. He has a deep understanding of the proper role of judges in our society. He understands that judges are to interpret the laws, not to impose their preferences or priorities on the people.

JEFFREY BROWN: President Bush also sent a message to the members of the Senate, many of whom had shown either a lack of enthusiasm or outright hostility to Harriet Miers and helped scuttle her nomination.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I’m confident that the United States Senate will be impressed by Judge Alito’s distinguished record, his measured judicial temperament, and his tremendous personal integrity.

And I urge the Senate to act promptly on this important nomination so that an up-or-down vote is held before the end of this year.

Judge, thanks for agreeing to serve and congratulations on your nomination.

JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Thank you very much, Mr. President. I am deeply honored to be nominated to serve on the Supreme Court, and I am very grateful for the confidence that you have shown in me.

The Supreme Court is an institution that I have long held in reverence. During my 29 years as a public servant, I’ve had the opportunity to view the Supreme Court from a variety of perspectives: As an attorney in the solicitor general’s office arguing and briefing cases before the Supreme Court, as a federal prosecutor and most recently for the last 15 years as a judge at the court of appeals. During all of that time, my appreciation of the vital role that the Supreme Court plays in our constitutional system has greatly deepened.

I argued my first case before the Supreme Court in 1982, and I still vividly recall that day. I remember the sense of awe that I felt when I stepped up to the lectern, and I also remember the relief that I felt when Justice O’Connor, sensing I think that I was a rookie, made sure that the first question that I was asked was a kind one. I was grateful to her on that happy occasion and I am particularly honored to be nominated for her seat.

Every time that I have entered the courtroom during the past 15 years, I have been mindful of the solemn responsibility that goes with service as a federal judge. Federal judges have the duty to interpret the Constitution and the laws faithfully and fairly, to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans and to do these things with care and with restraint, always keeping in mind the limited role that the courts play in our constitutional system.

And I pledge that if confirmed I will do everything within my power to fulfill that responsibility.

JEFFREY BROWN: Shortly after the early morning announcement, Judge Alito and his family went to Capitol Hill where they were greeted by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Judge Alito then paid his respects at the coffin of the late civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks in the Capitol Rotunda.

Later, he and Sen. Frist sat down for a photo opportunity with members of the Republican Party leadership. Sen. Frist noted that he and Alito both graduated from Princeton and read a prediction written in the school yearbook in 1972.

SEN. BILL FRIST: It says, the last two sentences, “Sam intends to go to law school and eventually warm a seat on the Supreme Court.” And I haven’t talked to Sam. You don’t have to comment on that. But, again, let me formally welcome you to the United States Senate.

JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO: Thank you very much.

Well, that was a college joke. I think my real ambition at the time was to be the commissioner of baseball. And I probably should have put that down. Of course I never dreamed that this day would actually arrive.

JEFFREY BROWN: Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell gave Judge Alito an idea of the treatment he could respect from the Republican majority in the Senate.

SEN. MITCH MC CONNELL: What we guarantee you is a dignified process here, a respectful hearing, and at the end of that process, an up or down vote, as has always been the case on Supreme Court nominees throughout the history of the Senate. Again, welcome.

JEFFREY BROWN: Judge Alito’s past rulings on abortion are expected to be a flash point in his nomination hearings. The man in charge of those hearings, Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, spoke to that issue. Specter himself supports abortion rights.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER: We’ll be interested in Judge Alito’s views on following precedents. He said in a very brief statement that he has worked hard to follow the precedents of the Supreme Court and there is a lot more to the issue of a woman’s right to choose than how you may feel about it personally. We have a long tradition in the court. We have the principles of precedents and starre decisis, super precedents and super duper precedents.

And you may be sure that will be among the first items that Judge Alito and I will discuss although I’m not going to ask him how he’s going to rule on any case.

JEFFREY BROWN: Meanwhile Democrats expressed immediate concerns about the new nominee, the man who has been sometimes referred to as “Scalito” because his judicial philosophy is considered similar to the staunch conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. Prior to his meeting with Judge Alito, Minority Leader Harry Reid released a statement that the Senate must find out, “if the man replacing Miers is too radical for the American people.”

Others questioned whether Judge Alito was the right replacement for the retiring Sandra Day O’Connor, long the decisive swing vote on the Supreme Court. New York’s Chuck Schumer said rather than picking someone in the O’Connor mold the president had used the opportunity to appease the right flange of his party, still unhappy over the Miers’ choice.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: America needs unity now. America needs reaching out to one another more than ever. But the president seems to want to hunker down in his bunker and is more concerned about smoothing the ruffled feathers of the extreme wing of his party than about governing all of America and changing history for the better.

JEFFREY BROWN: Today a number of social conservatives who had lobbied against Harriet Miers expressed satisfaction with her replacement. Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network said, “Judge Alito is the best there is.” Kay Daly of the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary said, the president’s choice “reflects his commitment to appoint judges in the mold of Scalia and Thomas.” And Gary Bauer of the American Values Coalition acknowledged that the debate had changed with today’s pick, saying at least now the president is having a battle with his political opponents and not with his friends.

Indeed, several liberal groups, including People for the American Way and Alliance for Justice, made clear today that they’re ready to fight the nomination of Samuel Alito.