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(Wo)Men in black

Michael Huston
By Michael Huston
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 3, 2005
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President Bush’s choice Monday of Samuel Alito to fill the Supreme Court seat of the retiring Sandra Day O’Connor has drawn immediate praise from conservatives, and speculation that this nomination would increase the divide between the different factions of the Republican Party appears to be at an end.

Meanwhile, liberal groups have wasted no time in opposing the nomination, with such groups as Planned Parenthood and People for the American Way already calling for his rejection by the Senate, much like they unsuccessfully attempted with our recently nominated chief justice, John Roberts.

It appears, then, that liberals and conservatives nationwide are gearing up for what could turn into a relatively brutal battle over Judge Alito’s ideological stance.

It is exactly this kind of litmus testing, however, that has undermined the entire process of selecting Supreme Court justices.

Nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court should always be nominated and considered based on their record and their experience, and a senator’s disagreement with a judge’s particular interpretation of constitutional law does not in and of itself constitute grounds for rejection.

Consider the case of Robert Bork in 1987. A well-qualified nominee with an exceptional written record as a judge, the Senate rejected Bork because his views were seen as too conservative or “out of the mainstream.”

Many groups who oppose Alito would like to portray his views in the same way, as being “out of touch” with the majority of voters.

My guess, albeit somewhat premature, is that Alito’s distinguished career and his dignified and humble personality will cause him to find favor with the American people, leading to a relatively quick nomination.

Amid the discussions that have taken place as a result of this new nomination, the fact that the nominee is yet another white man is conspicuously absent among them.

Samuel Altio ... should be confirmed, even if he is just another white man.

It seems that more recently, political pressure is placed on presidents not so much to select ideologically neutral justices, but to instead ensure that the Supreme Court maintains “adequate” representation for women and minorities.

Reports indicate that Alito was the president’s preferred choice all along but that he chose Harriet Miers instead in an effort to “break the mold” of the white male justice.

Essentially, then, the Miers nomination constituted a sacrifice of quality in terms of judicial experience and constitutional knowledge in order to keep the number of female justices above the token level of one.

There are many students, though, who argue that diversity should in fact be an important consideration in the selection of Supreme Court nominees.

Lyndsey Rodgers, a public health junior, said, “I think that, ideally, the most qualified person should always get the job. However, it’s important to have another perspective besides that of a white man.”

She also says that she would be more inclined to support the nomination of a potentially less qualified woman over a more qualified man in order to keep at least one woman on the court.

Ms. Rodgers’ desire for a court of diverse background is understandable and appropriate, but selecting nominees in an effort to create some sort of gender, racial or ideological balance would be wrong.

Instead, nominees for the highest court should be selected by carefully examining our country to find the highest-caliber judges with the most outstanding credentials and a clear understanding of the subtleties of constitutional law.

Surely, as opportunities for women in this country continue to expand, the number of women who go to law school will grow, and thus so will the number of women who find their way into the top levels of our judiciary.

Undoubtedly, there have been and will be times when Supreme Court vacancies exist and the clear choice for an especially capable jurist is in fact a woman.

For the time being however, Samuel Alito’s credentials demonstrate that he is exceptionally well qualified for the Supreme Court and should be confirmed, even if he is just another white man.

Michael Huston is a sophomore majoring in political science and philosophy. He can be reached at

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