Alito actions scrutinized

November 10, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Democrats directed new attention yesterday to the question of Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s possible conflicts of interest, sending a letter to his supervising judge in New Jersey requesting documents related to his failure to recuse himself from a 2002 case involving Vanguard Group, the mutual fund company.

After a three-judge panel including Alito ruled in favor of Vanguard, the investor who sued the company objected that Alito should not have heard the case. He holds nearly $400,000 in Vanguard-managed mutual funds, according to his latest financial reports.

Anthony Scirica, chief judge of the 3rd Circuit, removed Alito from the case and assigned it to a new panel of judges, which subsequently reached the same judgment.

In their letter to Scirica, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary committee asked for any documents connected to Alito's failure to recuse himself from the case, as well as descriptions of the court's rules and procedures for avoiding conflicts of interest.

White House spokesman Steve Schmidt defended Alito's actions, saying "the allegation that there's any impropriety is absurd."

Alito's nomination has been gaining ground with both Democratic and Republican senators as he has met with them privately.

Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said he was bothered by the questions about Alito's failure to recuse himself from the Vanguard case but said that otherwise the judge "got off to a very good start with me."

Alito has blamed a computer system glitch for failing to flag the Vanguard case as presenting a possible conflict of interest. Democrats have said they doubt that a computer system can be blamed.

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