Her Idea of Justice: Absolutely Not Alito

Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice president, with consultant Bob Lehrman.
Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice president, with consultant Bob Lehrman. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)
By Marcia Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Nan Aron lost the fish this summer.

Aron, the founder of the Alliance for Justice, one of the liberal armies in the war over the judiciary, has lived in her Woodley Park rowhouse for 30 years. There's a small brick pond in the front yard and, much to the delight of the neighborhood children, she filled it with fish over the summer, about 20 goldfish and koi. But summer was also the start of a season of high-stakes judicial battles.

While Aron and her allies were working long hours trying to defeat the confirmation of now Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., her fish disappeared.

"The problem was I was responsible for the fish," Aron says with a bit of self-deprecating humor. "My one responsibility at home was to feed the fish, talk to the fish and protect their safety, and I'd come home and start counting" and realize that there was trouble.

The casualties of war. But when you come from a family of social activists, you can look into an empty pond and find the positive.

"We'll start again next year and hopefully I'll be a little more attentive," Aron says.

Good thing it's fall because the war that court-watchers have been predicting for more than a decade finally arrived last week with President Bush's nomination of Judge Samuel Alito Jr. as his choice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor.

Aron founded the Alliance for Justice in 1979 and established its Judicial Selection Project in 1985. In the years since, she has built a reputation for never giving in. Ever.

Not even when Republicans control the Senate, 55 to 45, and the GOP's right flank has been reenergized by Alito's nomination.

Aron, 57, can survey that landscape and conclude: "We will win this nomination battle, but as in the past it's going to take a huge amount of effort by the entire community, everybody pitching in. In the end, I do think we'll prevail."

The stakes are huge in this battle, where a conservative judge would move the court decidedly to the right, she says. Also, the GOP lost some moral authority in its harsh treatment of Bush's previous nominee, Harriet Miers.

Aron, Ralph Neas of People for the American Way and Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights have been a close-knit and consistent team of opposition to conservative judicial nominees. They led the movement that sank Robert Bork in 1987, and they've never looked back.

CONTINUED     1                 >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company