On Nov. 30 the National Archives released a 1985 memo from Samuel A. Alito Jr., then a Reagan administration lawyer, to the solicitor general, which said, “We should make clear that we disagree with Roe v. Wade and would welcome the opportunity to [present arguments on] the issue of whether, and if so to what extent, that decision should be overruled.”
The 17-page memo outlined a strategy of supporting state restrictions to weaken the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Alito wrote that the Justice Department should set a goal of overturning Roe v. Wade.
Bush nominated Alito to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, often the swing vote on the nine-member court on cases concerning social issues. Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the memo shows Alito was “the puppet master of the Reagan administration’s anti-choice legal strategy.”
Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) have requested more of Alito’s papers written while he worked in the solicitor general’s office, but the White House has refused, citing “attorney-client privilege.”
Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “This new information heightens concern about Judge Alito’s views on ‘settled law’ and his eagerness to engage in activism to change law with which he disagrees. We now see why this administration has resisted so strenuously to the release of these sort of memos.”
Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) quickly intervened with damage control. After meeting with Alito, Specter relayed the judge’s assurances that his personal views on abortion and other issues would not affect his judicial decisions. “The sum and substance that I’m trying to say here is to give the nominee a chance to be heard,” said Specter.
But abortion rights are not the only concern of Alito’s critics. His record opposing civil rights is evident. After extensive research, People for the American Way found Alito to have right-wing extremist views. He has taken positions on cases that would make it more difficult for victims of race or sex discrimination to prove their claims.
In applying to be deputy assistant U.S. attorney general in the Reagan administration, Alito wrote, “In college I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated by disagreement with the Warren Court decisions.” It was that court in 1953-69 that expanded civil rights for African Americans. Alito referred to his belief in “limited government” whose role is to protect “traditional values,” and wrote of his pride in helping the government argue against affirmative action.
Alito now says he is “wiser and has a better grasp of understanding constitutional rights and liberties.” But as a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, his record shows insensitivity to the rights of women, African Americans and workers in general. Alito has not repudiated his 1985 statements.