Wednesday, December 21, 2005
The Bush administration should release all of Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s internal Justice Department documents before confirmation hearings begin next month, Senate Democrats said yesterday.
The documents "will be important in evaluating Judge Alito's nomination," the eight Judiciary Committee Democrats said in a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.
Alito worked for the solicitor general's office from 1981 to 1985, and as deputy assistant U.S. attorney general from 1985 to 1987 before becoming a federal prosecutor and judge. President Bush named him to the Supreme Court in October.
"There are currently thousands of public documents on Judge Alito's extensive 15-year judicial record that provide more than sufficient evidence into his judicial philosophy," Justice Department spokesman Brian J. Roehrkasse said. "Furthermore, as a number of former solicitors general from both Republican and Democratic administrations have noted, releasing internal . . . documents would significantly compromise the ability of the solicitor general's office to obtain advice necessary in defending the American people in legal proceedings."
The National Archives has released some of Alito's solicitor general documents, including a memo in which he urged fellow Reagan administration lawyers to seek the gradual erosion of abortion rights rather than mount an all-out repeal of Roe v. Wade , the 1973 ruling establishing a constitutional right to abortion.
Those documents "make it clear that we and the American people could learn much about Judge Alito's judicial philosophy and legal thinking" from the undisclosed documents, the Democrats wrote.
If confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, the federal appeals court judge would succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring.
Hearings on Alito's nomination are set to begin Jan. 9. The Senate hopes to have a final vote on Alito by Jan. 20.
Several environmental groups, including Earthjustice, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, called for senators to reject Alito.
He is the first nominee these groups have opposed since the Senate defeated the 1987 nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork. "The more one learns about his positions, the clearer it is that he's the wrong choice," David Bookbinder of the Sierra Club said.