By John Jalsevac

Samuel AlitoWashington, D.C., January 11, 2006 ( – In his third day of intense questioning, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito continues what has proved to be a strong, thoughtful performance that has left Democrats little room for criticism of Bush’s newest candidate for the Supreme Court.

As in the nomination battle over justice Roberts last year, much attention has been given to Alito’s stance on abortion. And much like Roberts’ nomination battle, the last few days of questioning have seen Democrats grilling Alito on hypothetical situations which, as a judge who may very well face future court cases on the matter, he cannot responsibly answer.

Unlike Roberts, however, Alito has refused to cave and label the landmark 1973 abortion decision, Roe V. Wade, as “settled law”.

Pressed by Sen. Arlen Specter to state his opinion regarding Roe V. Wade Alito admitted that the decision bore a great deal of legal weight, especially considering it has been several times revisited and reaffirmed by the Supreme Court. However, he added “Sometimes changes in the situation in the real world can call for the overruling of a precedent.”

“I personally would not get into categorizing precedents as super-precedents or super-duper precedents,” he continued, saying “it sort of reminds me of the size of laundry detergent in the supermarket.”

“I don’t want to leave the impression that stare decisis is an inexorable command because the Supreme Court has said that it is not.”

Under questioning by Senator Brownback, Alito confirmed that previous persistent Supreme Court rulings had been rightly overturned, most notably that of racial segregation that was overturned in the 1954 ruling Brown v. Board of Education.

In yet another parallel to the nomination battle over judge Roberts, much attention has been paid to an early piece of the nominee’s writing on abortion, in this case an application essay written by Alito in the mid 1980s written while applying for a position in the Reagan administration. In that essay Alito asserted that the Constitution contains no right to abortion.

Despite intense pressure to renege on that opinion Alito has refused to do so. Responding to a question from Sen. Charles Schumer on the matter the nominee responded “Senator, it was an accurate statement of my view at the time, and I made it from the vantage point of an attorney in the attorney general’s office.” He then clarified, still without giving any evidence of a change of opinion, “That was a statement that I made at a prior period of time when I was performing a different role and, as I said yesterday, when someone becomes a judge you really have to put aside the things you did as a lawyer at prior points in your legal career.”

After further and unsuccessfully pressuring Alito to state his current personal opinions regarding abortion Schumer later stated in exasperation, “We can only conclude that if the question came before the court, it is very likely you would vote to overrule Roe versus Wade.”

According to the current schedule, subject to change should Alito’s hearings experience any sort of delay, a full vote by the Senate on Alito’s confirmation will occur January 20. Most commentators at this point are expecting Alito to be successfully confirmed, although significant opposition does remain in the senate.