June 06, 2020

Justice’s two attributes

A reader complains (BDN, Jan. 21-22) that in his Senate hearings, Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito “did not actually say anything.” In fact, Alito said plenty during those interludes when Sens. Kennedy, Biden, et al., paused in their windbaggery – criticism and veiled accusations masquerading as questions – long enough to allow him to answer.

So it must be that the writer’s objection is not that Judge Alito said nothing; rather, that what he said did not please her. Apparently she and like-minded abortion supporters would only have been satisfied had the candidate said something like, “Why, yes, Sen. Schumer, I do believe abortion is a good thing, and I promise to vote against any attempt to outlaw or restrict it.”

Is that really the way to choose a Supreme Court justice?

There are two attributes that a justice must have. First and foremost, he or she must know the law and the Constitution on which it is based. Second, the justice must be even-handed and unbiased (or be demonstrably willing to put bias aside) in hearing evidence and deciding cases.

As Judge Alito clearly demonstrated in the hearings, his knowledge of the law is encyclopedic, and on a par with that of recent appointee Chief Justice John Roberts. And despite the best efforts of his inquisitors to lay verbal traps that might expose inconsistency or character flaw, the nominee was unshakable in maintaining his commitment to be open-minded, and to decide cases on their merits, and as governed by the law.

And that is as it should be. Appointment to the Supreme Court is not a beauty contest, not a popular election, not an episode of “Survivor.” Warm and fuzzy is not a criterion, nor is adherence to a particular belief. Judge Alito is supremely qualified for the high court. He will make an outstanding justice.

David Dean


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