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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Alito Questioning: Day 1, Part I


Questioning has begun of Judge Alito. Some short summaries below for those who don't have access to the hearings this morning.

SPECTER FIRST ROUND OF QUESTIONS: Alito dodged question on Griswald from Specter, but says he agrees with result in Eisenstadt. Then going through Casey, but not really answering questions. Doctrine of stare decisis is important. (Again, not completely answering the question. Specter didn’t ask for a definition – he asked about specifics.) Constitution embodies concept of “a living thing?” Sets up framework, but is not very specific on a number of things so each generation can apply them to problems as they come up. Extensive questions on FISA and signing statements – got into the 1986 memo from Alito. Not too many answers, lots of vague pronouncements. (RH notes: Looks like Lindsey Graham's coaching job included some insight into what his fellow Senators might be asking. Wonder how they feel about that?)

LEAHY FIRST ROUND QUESTIONING: Great job questioning on FISA and limits of Presidential power. Want to see more of this. Good job getting into Strip Search Sammy case. Completely slammed him on reasonableness of strip searching a 10 year old girl. Membership in CAP addressed -- Alito retreating to "I don't really recall" excuse. Hope they have time to get into this more substantially, because a defense based on anger at ROTC being thrown off campus when that was clearly not the stated purpose of CAP doesn't fly with me. [UPDATE: LiberalOasis is questioning the truth of the ROTC excuse. Alito may have been dishonest in his answer/excuse on CAP. More as I get it.]

HATCH FIRST ROUND QUESTIONING: Starting out with a prosecutorial style of questioning. Whipping out questions – yes or no. Mostly a lot of statements with which Hatch agrees, and then some Alito ass-kissing and softball questions.

15 minute break. Will reconvene at 11:20 am ET.

KENNEDY FIRST ROUND QUESTIONING: Starts out with Vanguard right off the bat. Alito’s excuse - “oops, I forgot that I promised the Senate not to rule on anything involving who handles my personal investments.” On to question of executive overreach – torture, library records, spying without warrants, imperial presidency, independent judiciary. Goes on to discuss Alito’s record on executive and governmental power at the expense of individual liberty. Alito retracts prior statement – says branches of government are equal, not what he had previously stated. (Although there was a slip of the tongue and Alito almost said the people leave it up to the “executive” to make decisions.) (RH notes: The Judiciary Committee has a clubby atmosphere – it’s nice to know they can joke with one another outside the nasty, political infighting context we usually see.) Questions on case where Alito overrode jury. More on Strip Search Sammy case and (un)reasonableness of Alito. Gets into excesses of Presidential power – McCain amendment on torture. Signing statement – Alito now saying he disagrees with them. On to unitary executive theory – in past statement, Alito referred to this as “the gospel” and affirmed belief in it – Kennedy asks him to reconcile this. Alito dodges a bit.

GRASSLEY FIRST ROUND QUESTIONING: Anyone questioning your ethics is a poo-poo head. And gosh darn it, people like you. Have I mentioned that I think you are awfully ethical? It’s good that you think the President shouldn’t have a completely blank check on power (but I won’t ask you where you think the limits actually are). Now, let me only ask you questions for which you have ready answers: judicial restraint, extra-Constitutional problems, personal bias of judges, “majority rule” and individual freedoms (because Grassley can’t seem to say “tyranny of the majority”). (RH notes: shouldn’t we be beyond basic Con Law questions for a man who wants to sit on the Supremes? I’m just saying. And let us take a moment to be grateful for the miracle of coffee.) And apparently bloggers and interested citizens who comment on the hearings make Grassley annoyed – boy, do I feel bad for having an opinion of my own. (Not.)

BIDEN FIRST ROUND QUESTIONING: Biden starts with getting to the heart of Vanguard and cutting through GOP spin: did you keep your word or not? And then goes on about CAP. Makes point on ROTC being back on campus, contrary to what Alito said – and then ruins it by going on and on with Biden’s own personal history. SIGH Blah blah blah Roberts blah blah blah O’Connor fulcrum real world blah blah blah history of real world discrimination blah blah blah. (RH: Did I mention the miracle that is coffee?) Judge, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I’d like to talk again instead of getting your view on discrimination. (RH: Man, I’m sorry. I try not to harp on my own team, but for the love of pete...Biden’s staffers pulled two great illustrations of discrimination opinions from Alito that deserve questioning, and I’ve lost the ability to pay attention because Biden is just blathering. What a way to head into lunchtime.) State versus the individual – Biden says Alito leans toward the government’s power.

KYL FIRST ROUND QUESTIONING: Starts with unitary executive. Then raises Bork’s name (hello, winger base!) and throws a softball asking why Alito wants to serve. I wish for world peace. Erm...it would be an honor to serve. On to question of relying on foreign law for US jurisprudential interpretation – and Alito agrees with Kyl’s position that foreign law is not helpful. Does say that Youngstown is precedent, and that judiciary should hold fast on Constitutional principles – but Kyl asked it in a fairly softball context. (RH note: sure hope someone else goes into more depth on Youngstown.) Then Kyl finishes with some lovely blurbs from the ABA. (Kyl to continue after lunch.)

Lunch recess until 2:15 pm ET.

UPDATE: Just for fun, MyDD has a "Guess Alito's Freeper Name" game going on. Thought it would be a fun way to pass the time as we watch the Alito 20 questions here as well. So guess the freeper nickname of Scalito -- and do share if you have a better question for the Judge than the ones you've heard. I've been thinking about ways to focus the questioning myself and am planning on e-mailing some of mine to some staffers this afternoon. I'd appreciate any input our commenters have on this.

UPDATE #2: For those experiencing Haloscan problems: Gang -- I'm told that google had a recent update that has made haloscan a little wonky. Reader T- tells me that "If you right click on the toolbars, deselect Google toolbar then refresh, the comments link reappears." Hope this helps everyone who is having a problem.

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