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The opening statement of Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, as prepared for delivery at the confirmation hearing for Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

Judge Alito, I'd like to welcome you and your family to the Judiciary Committee.  Congratulations on your nomination to be an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.  

The Senate has an important responsibility to confirm to the federal bench well qualified individuals who will faithfully interpret the laws and Constitution.  Confirmation should be limited to those individuals who will be fair, unbiased, devoted to addressing the facts and the law before them, without imposing their own values and political beliefs when deciding cases.  Nominees shouldn't be expected to pre-commit to ruling on certain issues in a certain way, nor should Senators ask the nominees to pledge to rule on issues in a particular way.   

So, if we fulfill our responsibility, the Supreme Court will be filled with superior legal minds who will pursue the one agenda that our Founding Fathers intended: justice, rather than political and personal agendas.  The Supreme Court will consist of individuals who meticulously apply the law and Constitution, regardless of whether the results they reach are popular or not.  If we do our job right, the Supreme Court won't be made up of men and women who are on the side of one thing or another.  Rather, the Supreme Court will be made up of men and women who are on the side of the law and the Constitution.

From all accounts, Judge Alito has an impressive and extensive legal and judicial record, certainly one worthy of a Supreme Court Justice.  Judge Alito excelled at top notch schools, was a member of the law review, and clerked for a federal judge.  He also held important positions at the Department of Justice in the Office of Legal Counsel and the Solicitor General's Office, and was the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey before becoming a judge on the Third Circuit.  Judge Alito has been confirmed - unanimously - by the United States Senate, not once, but twice.  This is a tremendous record of accomplishment and public service, equal to any Supreme Court nominee I've considered over the 25 years I've been on this Committee.  Not only that, Judge Alito has a reputation for being an exceptional and honest judge devoted to the rule of law, and a man of integrity.

Judge Alito enjoys the support and respect of the people who work with him, practice before him, and therefore know him best.  For example, fifty-four of Judge Alito's former law clerks - Democrats, Republicans and Independents - signed a joint letter to the Committee that stated in part: "We collectively were involved in thousands of cases, and it never once appeared to us that Judge Alito has pre-judged a case or ruled based on political ideology."  They further stated, "it is our uniform experience that Judge Alito was guided by his profound respect for the Constitution and the limited role of the judicial branch."   In my opinion, that says a lot about Judge Alito and his approach to the judicial function.  Like Chief Justice Roberts, it appears that Judge Alito tries to act like an umpire, calling the balls and strikes, rather than advocating for a particular outcome in a case.

I'm also impressed with the very complementary things that some lawyers had to say about Judge Alito in the Lawyers Evaluation section of the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary.  With respect to his legal acumen, lawyers praised him, saying that Judge Alito was "exceptional" and a "brilliant jurist".  Another lawyer stated that "to say he is outstanding is to use understatement.  He's the best judge on the circuit, maybe the country."

 

With respect to his demeanor and temperament, lawyers found Judge Alito to be measured and judicial on the bench.  For example, one lawyer commented that "he is demanding, but always courteous.  He may occasionally demonstrate a little bit of impatience with lawyers that aren't quite getting it - this can be directed at either side; it's just a sign that his mind is working more efficiently than yours.  He is never discourteous and never abusive."  Another lawyer said "he is somewhat reserved.  He's not hostile, negative or mean.  He is pleasant and courteous."

Others commented about the impression that Judge Alito is a conservative judge, but certainly not out to impose his own personal agenda on the bench.  One lawyer commented that "he is a conservative, but reaches honest decisions," while another said "by reputation, he is known to be one of the more conservative judges on the court, but he is forthright and fair.  He tries to decide the cases in front of him in the right way."

And the American Bar Association came out just last week with its evaluation of Judge Alito to be a Justice for the Supreme Court - considering criteria such as "integrity,"  "judgment," "compassion," "open-mindedness," and "freedom from bias and commitment to equal justice under the law."  The ABA has - once again - found Judge Alito to be "unanimously well qualified."  This recommendation should hold a lot of weight for my colleagues on the other side, who have time and time again claimed the rating to be the "gold standard."

Yet, some liberal interest groups have come out in full force, and have attempted to paint Judge Alito to be an extremist and an activist.  They've criticized a nominee who has - from what I see described by these lawyers and fellow judges - a reputation for being a restrained jurist committed to the rule of law and the Constitution.  But that's what these outside the mainstream groups always do - attack individuals who they don't believe will implement their agenda on the Supreme Court.  So, one could say that their criticism is a badge of honor worn by many past and present members of the Court.

Now, I'm glad to see the public fully participate in the process, because this is the nature of our system of government.  But I don't like to see facts twisted or untruths fabricated to give the nominee a black eye, even before he sets foot in front of the Judiciary Committee.  So, Judge Alito, now you have an opportunity to set everyone straight on your record and your approach to deciding cases.  I look forward to asking you more about your record and qualifications, as well as your judicial method.

These hearings are also a good opportunity to remind the public about the proper role for a judge in our system of limited government and checks and balances. Judges are required by this democratic system of government not to over-step their positions to become policy makers or "super-legislators".  Supreme Court nominees should know without any doubt that their job is not to impose their own personal opinions of what is right and wrong, but to say what the law "is", rather than what they personally think it "ought to be".  Supreme Court nominees should know that this exercise of judicial restraint is the key ingredient of a good judge, as the Constitution constrains judges every bit as much as it constrains legislators, executives, and citizens in their actions.  Moreover, Supreme Court nominees should be individuals who not only understand, but truly respect the equal roles and responsibilities of the different branches of government and the States. 

As Alexander Hamilton cautioned in Federalist No. 78, "The courts must declare the sense of the law; and if they should be disposed to exercise will instead of judgment, the consequences would be the substitution of their pleasure to that of the legislative body."  Our Framers expected the judicial branch to be the "least dangerous branch of government."

At our meeting in my office back in November, I was pleased to hear Judge Alito place an emphasis on the limited role of the courts as an institution in our democratic society.  He also reiterated this belief in the questionnaire that he submitted to our Committee.  So, I have some idea of how Judge Alito approaches the law and views the role of a judge in our society.  I'm hopeful that his commitment to judicial restraint and to confining decisions to the law and the Constitution will shine through in this hearing.  And, I'm hopeful my colleagues will give Judge Alito a civil, fair and dignified process, as well as an up or down vote on the floor.  Because, as always, the Constitution sets the standard.  The President nominates.  The Senate deliberates.  And then, we are obligated to give our advice and consent by an up-or-down vote on the nomination.

Again, Judge Alito, congratulations on your nomination, and I look forward to your testimony.

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