Peoria Journal Star

November 3, 2005

Durbin softens on court nominee
Senator's concerns are quelled after chatting with Alito about abortion, race

By Dori Meinert
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., met privately with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito on Wednesday, saying afterward that Alito alleviated at least some of his concern that Alito might support the overturn of the 1973 Supreme Court decision allowing abortions.

"I think he believes in that fundamental right to privacy," a basis for the historic Roe v. Wade ruling, Durbin told reporters after the 30-minute meeting with Alito.

Durbin is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings and a vote on Alito's nomination in the first step of the Senate's confirmation process.

Alito also told Durbin that he had labored hard over his dissent in an abortion case in which he had argued that requiring women seeking an abortion to notify their husband was constitutional. His view was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. But since his nomination, it's causing concern among abortion-rights groups.

"He said he spent more time worrying over and working on that dissent than any he had written as a judge," Durbin recounted. "I was glad to hear that."

If confirmed, Alito would replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a swing vote on many issues including

abortion and affirmative action.

Durbin asked Alito about his views on race.

Alito told how his father wrote an editorial for his college newspaper criticizing the college's decision to play an all-white team south of New Jersey that insisted they not bring any black players. His father nearly was expelled.

"He said it had an impact on his family and it had an impact on him," Durbin said.

Overall, Alito "was very forthcoming. I had a good conversation with him," Durbin said.

Durbin said he would have many more questions during Alito's confirmation hearings. But he said it was premature to talk about a filibuster.

"I don't know of a single Democrat who is saying that it's time for a filibuster, that we should really consider it. It's way too early," Durbin said.