In a letter to the Senate released today, Earthjustice and more than 50 other conservation groups urged the Senate to oppose the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito Jr. to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. None of these groups opposed the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts.
“Earthjustice has not opposed a Supreme Court nominee since Judge Robert Bork in 1987,” said Glenn Sugameli, Earthjustice Senior Judicial Counsel. “Judge Alito’s record indicates that he would pursue his own extreme legal theories to create new barriers that prevent enforcement of laws that protect families and communities from pollution. The Senate should refuse to confirm Judge Alito.”
The environmental community has united around the opposition of Judge Alito to a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court for the following reasons:
- Commerce Clause: Judge Alito’s record, including most prominently his dissent in Rybar v. United States, indicates that he has a very narrow view of the Congress’s authority under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which underlies most federal environmental laws. During the hearing, Judge Alito refused to acknowledge his faulty reasoning even though the Supreme Court has essentially rejected his argument. In February, the court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the scope of the Commerce Clause in two critical cases that could restrict the geographic jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act to a small fraction of its current coverage.
- Standing and Access to Courts: Judge Alito has placed unjustifiable hurdles in front of citizens that are trying to make polluting corporations comply with basic environmental safeguards. His record indicates that he will shut the courthouse doors on citizens who are injured by polluting companies. In PIRG v. Magnesium Elektron, Judge Alito overturned a $2.6 million dollar verdict against a polluter that violated its Clean Water Act permit more than 150 times. In his hearing testimony, Judge Alito refused to acknowledge that the subsequent Supreme Court decision in Friends of the Earth v. Laidlaw invalidated the reasoning he employed to deny the plaintiffs their day in court.
- Corporate Interests: Judge Alito joined a 2-1 decision to overturn an Environmental Protection Agency emergency cleanup order under the Safe Drinking Water Act for cleaning toxic pollution out of the City of Lansing, Michigan’s aquifer — the drinking water supply for 180,000 people.
- Hearing Testimony: Judge Alito did not alleviate these concerns during his recent hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
“Americans depend upon the Supreme Court to uphold and enforce our nation’s environmental safeguards,” said Buck Parker, Executive Director of Earthjustice. “After a careful analysis of Judge Samuel Alito’s record, we believe that he would likely side with polluters and against citizens in disputes over environmental protection. Judge Alito’s history indicates that he will choose his own extreme personal beliefs over the enforcement of environmental laws.”
“With smoggy cities, dirty rivers, mercury contaminated fish and other threats, Americans cannot afford to confirm a Supreme Court justice who would unfairly side with polluters,” said Sugameli. “Judge Alito’s nomination must be defeated.”