Peoria Journal Star

January 10, 2006

Durbin challenges Alito on abortion, civil rights

By Dori Meinert
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - On the first day of hearings, Sen. Dick Durbin Monday challenged Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito to explain his record on abortion rights, civil rights and executive power.

"I believe the burden of proof is yours, Judge Alito - the burden of demonstrating to the American people and this committee that you or any nominee is worthy to serve on the highest court to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor," said Durbin, D-Ill., in his opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

President Bush's nomination of Alito is of historic importance because he would replace O'Connor, who has cast the deciding vote in 148 of 193 decisions over the past decade, Durbin said.

Durbin asked Alito whether his view on privacy rights and reproductive freedom has changed since he wrote, while a lawyer in the Reagan administration, that he believed the Constitution doesn't protect the right to an abortion.

He also challenged Alito's past support of broad executive powers, citing recent controversies over the administration's position on torture of prisoners and the secret wiretapping of American citizens.

The last resort for protecting Americans' rights and liberties is the Supreme Court, Durbin said.

"That's why we want to make certain that when it comes to the checks and balances in the Constitution, you will stand with our Founding Fathers in protecting us from a government or a president determined to seize too much power in the name of national security," he said.

In addition, Durbin said he wants Alito to explain why, as a federal appeals court judge, he has "sided so often against plaintiffs in civil rights cases."

In meeting with Durbin in November, Alito recalled that his father was almost expelled from college for criticizing the college president's decision to play an all-white basketball team that insisted the college not bring its black players.

"I admire your father's courage," Durbin said. "But just as we do not hold the son responsible for the sins of the the father, neither can we credit the son for the courage of the father."