Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Summer of Sam?

As promised, we'll be turning our focus to Justice Samuel Alito with some frequency in the weeks and months ahead: We'll dig into his record as a Circuit Court judge and his opinions on the Supreme Court; and we'll look back at his confirmation hearings, and at the politics of the confirmation vote itself.

But to begin, I want to lay out the basic facts of his nomination--as seen through the eyes of the Maine press as it unfolded--and Sen. Collins' role in it.

There will be details to fill in later. But hopefully this is a good starting point for discussion. If you notice any important gaps, please let us know.

--November 1, 2005. Sen. Collins reacts to the October 31 nomination announcement, telling the Morning Sentinel she's not familiar with Alito's record but that: "My number one criterion is that the person have excellent credentials and appropriate judicial philosophy and unquestioned integrity."

Queried about Alito's role as the lone dissenter in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which "struck down a Pennsylvania law requiring women seeking abortions to notify their spouses," Collins tells the paper that she wants to read the opinion and discuss it with Alito.

The article notes: "Collins said she would not judge Alito on his position on abortion alone."

--November 2. A Portland Press Herald story names the Alliance for Justice and Planned Parenthood as organizations criticizing Alito's record.

--November 17. Alito's 1985 job application to the Justice Department, "in which he said the Constitution doesn't protect the right to abortion" is examined on the front page of the PPH.

--December 13. Collins remains undecided on the nomination after having met with Alito, according to the PPH. A Collins spokesman tells the paper that the junior senator is waiting for the confirmation hearings to make up her mind.

--December 20. Bangor Daily News covers local opposition to the nomination.

Maureen Drouin of the Maine Sierra Club tells the paper that Alito's rulings have been persistently detrimental to clean water and public health.

Nicole Clegg of the Family Planning Association of Maine is quoted as worrying that Alito will uphold laws such that, "access to safe, legal abortions will be an impossibility for millions of women."

Andy Cadot of Maine Lawyers for Democracy argues to BDN that, "[Alito's] decisions are driven by his own personal ideology, which favors corporations and big government...That places him to the far right of even conservative justices now on the Supreme Court."

--January 6, 2006. With confirmation hearings about to start, NPR notes that Sen. Snowe and Collins, "are two of just a few pro-choice Republican senators whose votes are considered to be up for grabs."

--January 15. PPH reports that Collins remains undecided on Alito, but will not support a filibuster of his nomination.

In the same article, Chris Quint of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is quoted as saying, "Judge Alito cannot hide from his consistent pattern of decisions as a judge and a clearly stated legal philosophy that will put Maine people's right to privacy at risk."

Nicole Clegg of Family Planning Association of Maine charges, "Alito's claims of respecting precedent and privacy rights don't square with his 15-year record as a judge and even longer career as a government lawyer."

--January 27. Collins says she will vote in favor of Alito, PPH reports.

"Based on the record before me, I believe Judge Alito will be a justice who will exercise his judicial duties guided not by personal views, but based on what the facts, the law and the Constitution command," the junior senator is quoted as having written.

The article goes on to acknowledge opposition from 40 Maine advocacy groups, mentioning the National Organization of Women, the AFL-CIO and the National Environmental Trust as examples.

Maine Women's Lobby Executive Director Sarah Standiford laments, "Now was the time for Senator Collins to stand by her pro-choice values and stand by Maine people, and she failed."

--February 1. Collins joins 57 colleagues to confirm Alito 58-42. Four Democrats support the nomination while one Republican--Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI)-- votes against.

Jonathan Crasnick, director of Democracy Maine, tells the PPH that Collins and Snowe are more conservative than they often let on: "They get all this praise for being moderate, but time after time for judicial confirmations and other issues, they follow the Bush administration's agenda."

Collins counters to the paper that, "Even a cursory review of my voting record demonstrates that I stand tall for what I believe in, that I reflect the views of the majority of Mainers and that I vote in a very moderate way."

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