January 04, 2006

ABA Unanously Gives Alito Its Highest Rating: "Well Qualified"

It is nice that the ABA has given Alito it highest rating, and it makes it all the more a done deal that The Washington Post reports:

Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito received an unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association on Wednesday, giving his nomination momentum as the Senate prepares for confirmation hearings next week.

The rating came after a vote of the ABA federal judiciary committee and was delivered in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will launch Alito's confirmation hearings on Monday. Alito will face almost an hour of questioning from each of the 18 senators on the committee. . . .

PFAW President Ralph Neas says that "The ABA rating does not consider ideology or philosophy." But the ABA Journal (August 1989) quotes then Attorney General Richard Thornburgh as claiming that the committee screens "judicial nominees for their political and ideological philosophies to the extent extreme views might bear on judicial temperament or integrity." (See Charles-Edward Anderson, "SCREENING JUDGES: ABA again reviews nominees after court, Justice disputes")

Finally, I worry that the Republicans are going to use the ABA rating excessively and in the process give it undue credibility. Justice Roberts' high rating was mentioned frequently during his hearing. In my forthcoming book on the judicial confirmation process, I find that the ABA on average gives Republican nominees lower ratings than Democratic ones, but these lower ratings occur when there is divided political control between the Senate and Presidency. A good example of this would be when Judge Robert Bork was nominated. When there is split control, a lower rating is more likely to have an impact on confirmations. The bottom line is that it is hard to tout the ABA rating now as being so important and then at a later date say that we should ignore it.

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