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Public Statements

Executive Session

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


EXECUTIVE SESSION

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, the Committee on the Judiciary has recommended that we consent to the President's nomination of Samuel A. Alito, Jr. as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. I concur in that recommendation. I am convinced that Judge Alito will make an outstanding addition to the Supreme Court and will be faithful to his judicial oath in neutrally applying the law without imposing his personal, political or ideological views to circumvent the law or the Constitution.

First, I wish to commend Chairman SPECTER and my former colleagues on the Judiciary Committee--including the Presiding Officer--for conducting nomination hearings which established clearly Judge Alito's fitness to serve on the Nation's highest Court. I followed closely Judge Alito's responses to questions during the hearings. I was impressed by his profound patience, sincerity, and dedication to the ethical restraints which compel all nominees to refrain from prejudicing any matter which may come before the court. Many of my colleagues have complained that Judge Alito ``did not answer some questions.'' Their real complaint rather, is that they simply didn't like his answers. Judge Alito quite properly declined, as have all prior nominees to the Court, to address in advance specific matters which may come before them. As Judge Alito stated:

If a judge or a judicial nominee announced before even reading the briefs or getting the case or hearing the argument what he or she thought about the ultimate legal issue, all of that would be rendered meaningless, and people would lose all their respect for the judicial system, and with justification, because that's not the way in which members of the judiciary are supposed to go about the work of deciding cases.

That statement, and the time-honored concept which it embodies, is profoundly important. Surely, those of my colleagues who have criticized Judge Alito in this regard know better. Surely, they do not want Justices on the Court to signal in advance how they will rule on cases. To the extent they do, they will be judged by the American people as perverting our constitutional system itself.

Others have criticized Judge Alito because he may hold personal, political, or ideological views. We all hold personal views. But the role of a judge, unlike that of a legislator, is to apply the law without respect to his or her personal, political, or ideological views. Judge Alito has demonstrated not only his ability to do this during 15 years of service as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, but his commitment to this principle in responding to questions during his confirmation hearings.

Fidelity to the Constitution and commitment to the rule of law without respect to one's personal views is, at the end of the day, the only principle that provides legitimacy to the Federal judiciary--the only unelected branch of our government. The unelected status of the judiciary was, correctly, viewed with particular suspicion by the Founders, lest that unique status permit judges to impose their own views under the guise of judicial decisions, without direct accountability to the American people. In a letter to Spencer Roan, March 9, 1821, Jefferson stated:

The great object of my fear is the federal judiciary. That body, like gravity, ever acting with noiseless foot and unalarming advance, [is] gaining ground step by step. ..... Let the eye of vigilance never be closed.

And so that vigilance now rests upon this body. Let us be vigilant in insisting that justices of the Supreme Court, and all other Federal judges who are presented to us, are sufficiently committed to the rule of law.

As I noted during my remarks concerning the nomination of Chief Justice Roberts at a time when too many of those in the judicial branch have sought to use their lifetime tenured position to advance their own personal, ideological, or political preferences in deciding matters which come before them; at a time when too many within the legal, media and political elites have sought to recast the role of the judiciary into a superlegislature, approving of, and even urging judges to supplant their views for those of the elected representatives of the American people--we should be reminded that such actions and such views on the part of some are anticonstitutional and contrary to the rule of law itself.

Describing his own fidelity to the Constitution and to the rule of law, Judge Alito told the Committee on the Judiciary:

A judge can't have an agenda. A judge can't have a preferred outcome in any particular case. And a judge certainly doesn't have a client. A judge's only obligation--and it's a solemn obligation--is to the rule of law, and what that means is that in every single case, the judge has to do what the law requires.

The standard for rendering advice and consent, which I outlined in my statement concerning Chief Justice Roberts, is the standard I will apply to Judge Alito as well. That standard--demonstrated commitment to the rule of law and fidelity to the Constitution--is amply met by Samuel A. Alito, Jr. I am pleased to support his nomination and will certainly vote to confirm him as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. I urge my colleagues to do likewise.

Make no mistake about it. The American people do not want to see an obstructionist attitude in their legislative body. The American people are not benefited by an obstructionist attitude. An obstructionist attitude towards Judge Alito means not moving forward with affirming a cloture vote and then confirming Alito to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The American people are best served by a bipartisan attitude in this body. I hope when the cloture vote is made at 4:30 we will see not just the 60 votes needed to not allow a filibuster but that we will see a strong bipartisan vote in support of moving ahead with giving Judge Alito an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. And tomorrow morning, when we consider the confirmation of Judge Alito, I certainly hope that once again we will see a strong bipartisan vote confirming Judge Alito as the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

I yield the floor.

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