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Senator Opposes Supreme Court Nomination

Nov. 5, 2005 — President George Bush's nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court is not going smoothly and, according to one V.I. senator, it should be dropped altogether.
Sen. Ronald Russell said in a recent press release, "With the selection of federal appeals court Judge Samuel Alito, President Bush is placing the constitutional rights and freedoms of Americans in jeopardy with a nomination from the far right that would assuage his political base and dramatically shift the balance of the court. In catering to the demands of the far right, President Bush is replacing retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a mainstream conservative, with a selection who, if confirmed, would threaten America's rights and legal protections for decades.
"Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's pivotal centrist role has often provided a crucial vote on issues regarding privacy rights, civil rights, and worker's rights. In replacing Justice O’Connor with Judge Alito, these protections would be severely at risk."
Russell said that as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Alito had jurisdiction over appeals from V.I. courts. Russell said Thursday that though he has argued cases in that court and his name has been mentioned in decisions by that court, he has never met Alito, but decisions by Alito have him concerned.
Two decisions mentioned in Russell's recent press release are Smith v. Department of Education and Government of the Virgin Islands in the Interest of A.M.
Russell writes that in Smith v. Department of Education, a local contractor was denied remuneration and consequently sued the V.I. government for $27,000 for work performed under contract. The government argued that the contract was not in compliance with law. Although the lower court granted Smith the amount requested, the government appealed the lower court's decision. Alito reasoned that the contract was void, finding that it did not comply with the law.
Alito, according to Russell, infringed on worker's rights guaranteeing protections under the law. In denying the value added to the Department of Education through the contractor work, Alito, according to Russell, appeased the politics of the far right wing and set a new precedent against worker's rights and protections in the Virgin Islands.
In the Government of the Virgin Islands in the Interest of A.M., an appeal on a decision for a 16-year-old to be tried as an adult, the juvenile argued that the trial court erred in failing to determine whether the juvenile could be rehabilitated in a facility outside of the Virgin Islands. Alito held there was no requirement to consider rehabilitation facilities outside of the territory and stated, "the language does not expressly require that the court survey the availability of suitable rehabilitation facilities in other jurisdictions, and we see no reason to suppose that the V.I. Legislature intended to impose any such inflexible requirement."
According to Russell, Alito rigidly interpreted the law finding that since the law didn't specifically call for rehabilitation outside the territory, Alito would not consider the possibility. Russell further noted, "An interpretation of the law with greater sensitivity and courage could have dramatically affected the life of this individual for the better. Judge Alito's interpretation unfortunately did not provide for such an outcome."
Russell's press release states, "A review of Judge Alito's opinions regarding the Virgin Islands rulings demonstrates the interpretations and writings of a strict constitutionalist who consistently fails to represent a balanced, fair, and just perspective."
Russell said, "In recognizing society's forward march in time, function, and responsibility, restrictions on progress are not useful. We must continuously work toward improving the lives of others by establishing standards, which define justice and morality for society in a thoughtful and courageous manner. For Virgin Islanders, the nomination of Judge Alito clearly represents politics as usual, not progress forward."
He added, "The nomination of Judge Alito is a regrettable and simultaneously predictable choice for this White House. I am disappointed in the selection of this nominee. The people of America, including Virgin Islanders, expect a nominee who is in the mainstream of America with a commitment to the Constitution and individual rights such as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor exemplified."
Russell is a Democratic senator serving in the 26th Legislature of the U.S. Virgin Islands and a member of the Bar Association
Russell said he would like to have seen Bush appoint a Hispanic to the court. This view coincides with Democratic Party views. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada recently said, that Bush would leave the Supreme Court "looking less like America and more like an old boys club."
However, news reports show that Alito has the support of most conservatives.

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