NewsHour: Reviewing Documents from Supreme Court Nominee Alito’s Past – December 28, 2005

RAY SUAREZ: As a lawyer in the Reagan administration, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito wrote several memos, briefs and letters that have garnered widespread attention since their release by the National Archives earlier this month. In these documents, Alito advised his superiors at the Justice Department on matters ranging from executive privilege to abortion rights to civil rights, subjects that are likely to take center stage at his Senate confirmation hearings in two weeks.

Meanwhile, advocates and court watchers are pouring over the writings, hoping to glean how Alito might rule from the high court.

I’m joined now by two scholars who have been doing just that: Jeffrey Rosen, professor of law at George Washington University and legal affairs editor at the New Republic; and Stuart Taylor, a columnist with National Journal and a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

And, looking over these vast number of documents that have been released in the last month, are you getting a better sense of who Samuel Alito is?

JEFFREY ROSEN: It is possible to get a sense, and it’s interesting to compare them with the Roberts memos. In many ways, Alito’s seemed less deft; I think in particular of that job application that he sent to Attorney General Meese where he said, "I am a fierce conservative. I’m proudest of my opposition to abortion."

There was an earnestness and a rawness that we didn’t see in the wittier Roberts. On the other hand, you have the sense in these memos that Alito is a careful lawyer, always strategically advising the Justice Department to choose conservative and prudent strategies, rather than a fire-breathing ideologue, and in that sense he seems a little bit more reassuring than I might have feared.