Alito reassures two Senate moderates

November 09, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. earned fresh plaudits from senators yesterday, with two moderates - a Democrat and a Republican - expressing confidence that he did not appear eager to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that decriminalized abortion.

Sen. Susan M. Collins, a Maine Republican, said Alito told her that he would respect precedent even if he disagreed with the original ruling.

"I was obviously referring to Roe in that question," Collins told reporters after meeting with Alito for about an hour. "He assured me that he has tremendous respect for precedent and that his approach is to not overturn cases due to a disagreement with how they were originally decided."

Alito also met privately with Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, who emerged from their discussion saying that the veteran federal appeals judge had assured him that he considered Roe a precedent that "deserved great respect."

"He basically said that Roe was precedent on which people, a lot of people, relied and had been precedent now for decades and, therefore, deserved great respect," Lieberman told reporters.

Both Lieberman and Collins said that Alito, however, did not go so far as to pledge to uphold the Roe decision should it come before the court.

Alito also earned praise from the Senate's leading abortion foe, Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, who met with Alito yesterday.

Brownback said Alito did not discuss either abortion or a constitutional right to privacy - which some see as the legal underpinning of a right to abortion.

"He did articulate that he thinks one should look at the Constitution as the document is set and try to interpret from that document, not trying to bring in things or seeing it as a living document," Brownback said.

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