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    Alito would be fifth Catholic on Supreme Court

    By Jerry Filteau
    Catholic News Service

    WASHINGTON (CNS) — If Judge Samuel Alito Jr. is confirmed as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, it would be the first time in history that the majority of justices on the nation’s highest court are Catholic.

    President George W. Bush Oct. 31 nominated Alito, a former U.S. attorney in New Jersey and for the past 15 years a judge on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He is widely regarded as a strong conservative on an appellate court that is considered among the most liberal in the country.

    The 55-year-old judge is likely to face strong Democratic opposition because on the appellate court he opined that it was constitutional to require wives to notify their husbands before having an abortion. That opinion came as a minority dissent in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, a landmark case contesting Pennsylvania’s 1989 Abortion Control Act.

    The Supreme Court in 1992 upheld most of the Pennsylvania law but agreed with the appeals court majority in striking down the spousal notification provision. In the Supreme Court’s ruling the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist quoted Alito in his dissent against striking down the spousal notification portion of the law.

    On the other hand, in 2000 Alito joined in a ruling striking down a New Jersey partial-birth abortion law as unconstitutional. In his concurring opinion he said Supreme Court precedents required a health exception for the mother to make the law constitutional.

    In a case of church-state interest, Alito wrote the majority opinion of the appellate court in ACLU vs. Schundler, upholding a New Jersey city’s holiday display that included a Nativity scene and menorah, on the grounds that it also displayed secular symbols including Frosty the Snowman.

    In another religion-related case, he ruled in 1999 that the Newark, N.J., police department could not bar Muslim police officers from wearing beards for religious reasons, since the city permitted other officers to wear beards for medical reasons.

    If confirmed, Alito would be the 11th Catholic in U.S. history to sit on the Supreme Court and would become the fifth Catholic justice on the current court, forming for the first time a majority of Catholics on the nine-member court.

    Other Catholics currently on the nation’s highest bench are recently appointed Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.

    Past Catholics on the Supreme Court included two other chief justices, Roger Taney, 1836-64, and Edward White, a justice from 1894 to 1910 and chief justice, 1910-21. Other former Catholic justices were Joseph McKenna, Pierce Butler, Frank Murphy and William Brennan Jr.

    Alito was named to take the place of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who last summer announced her plans to retire as soon as a successor is confirmed.

    In his nomination speech Bush called Alito “one of the most accomplished and respected judges in America.”

    The nomination came just four days after White House counsel Harriet Miers, who had been nominated Oct. 3 to succeed O’Connor, withdrew her name under heavy fire from conservative groups who form the core of Bush’s political support. They were concerned that she had no court track record to back administration claims that she would bring a conservative judicial philosophy to the bench.

    Alito could face the opposite problem. Observers believe that if Democratic Senators judge him too conservative their shaky political agreement to avoid minority filibusters to block judicial appointments could break down.

    The day before Alito’s nomination Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, expressed fears of a filibuster by Democrats if they oppose a nominee’s position on abortion. “The topic which dominates the discussion, as we all know, is a woman’s right to choose,” he said.

    Alito was born April 1, 1950, in Trenton, N.J. His late father, Samuel Alito Sr., was an Italian immigrant. His mother, Rose, who turns 91 later this year, was a public school teacher.

    After graduating from Princeton University, he attended Yale Law School, where he was editor of the Yale Law Journal and earned his law degree in 1976.

    After a year clerking for U.S. 3rd Circuit Judge Leonard Garth, Alito spent four years as assistant U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey. He went on to become assistant to the U.S. solicitor general in 1981, deputy assistant U.S. attorney general in 1985 and U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey in 1987.

    He was only 39 when he was appointed to the federal appeals court in 1990. Bush said that with 15 years on that court Alito “has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years.”

    Alito’s wife, Martha, was a law librarian when they met. They have two children: a son, Philip, in college and a daughter, Laura, in high school


    Think they’d all go to Mass together?


    [quote:35mff5k2]Think they’d all go to Mass together?[/quote:35mff5k2]

    One can only wonder how faithful to the Church they are. You know how it goes “keep God out of our secular courts”


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