After 18 hours and over 700 questions Judge Samuel Alito finished his portion of the confirmation hearings on Thursday and appears headed toward confirmation along partisan lines.
Today over 30 outside witnesses will give short statements to the 18 member judiciary committee, expressing their concerns about or support for Judge Alito. It is expected that the 10 Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote for Alito, with 8 Democrats voting against. A full senate vote is scheduled for Jan. 20.
The tone of questioning on Thursday was less contentious than the previous day after it was determined that there was no evidence to suggest that Judge Alito had significant ties with a controversial Princeton alumni group that opposed increasing diversity for women and minorities at the university, although a clear reason why Alito had mentioned the group in a job application was not determined.
On abortion, the Democrat Senators once again tried to establish Alitos views more clearly, with Alito explaining that he would respect precedent on the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that nationalized abortion, adding that it should not be reversed unless there was special justification to do so.
Alito was asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) about the death penalty. The judge stated that it was unconstitutional to execute someone who has not been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, adding, We all want to avoid the tragedy of having an innocent person execute.
Leahy also asked Alito if a patients wishes should be heeded when it comes to deciding on medical treatment, a matter with implications for end-of-life issues. Alito said that a persons right to refuse medical treatment is a fundamental principle of common law.
Touching upon the executive power of the President in light of statements that the President has authorized wiretapping for outbound international calls without obtaining a court warrant, Alito said it would be a "rare instance" for the president or one of his staff to be justified in opposing a law passed by Congress. However, Alito stressed that he would have to be presented with the facts of a specific case before considering a legal question.
I would have to study the question, Alito told Sen. Joseph Biden (D-R.I.).
On Thursday afternoon, fellow judges and former judges on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia where Alito has worked for the past 15 years testified about their colleague, stating that his legal rulings had not been guided by his political views and referred to his intellectual honesty and fairness, adding that he was not an ideologue.
For conservative observers, such as Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for American Center for Law and Justice, Alitos testimony withstood bullying tactics by some Senate Judiciary Committee members. He noted that Alito answered 95 percent of the questions asked of him in comparison to 88 percent for Chief Justice John Roberts and 74 percent for Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Judge Alito answered the questions and responded with dignity and professionalism," Sekulow commented on the ACLJ website. "He has displayed the type of judicial temperament that will make him an excellent Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.