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Some Judges Criticize Court Nominee on Civil Rights

Some appeals judges who ruled on civil rights cases with Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. have accused him over the years of minimizing America's history of racial discrimination, weakening the courts in dealing with bias claims and placing barriers in the path of employees' civil rights suits.

But his record on civil rights is not one-sided. A look at scores of his decisions on race and other civil rights issues shows that he often takes a highly technical approach to volatile issues. His supporters say he carefully applies the law as it is. Sweeping proclamations - and discussions of civil rights history - are rarely part of his decisions.

He sided with a 61-year-old security supervisor claiming age discrimination, with inmates saying prison officials violated their civil rights and with Islamic police officers challenging a ban on beards.

In the case of an Orthodox Jewish teacher who said she had been harassed by a supervisor because of her religion, he wrote that the law did not permit an employer to put "an employee to the 'cruel choice' between religion and employment."

But his civil rights record also includes the cases in which other judges wrote that his opinions "minimize the history of discrimination," were "radical and unwise" and would have "eviscerated" laws banning employment discrimination. Judge Alito, President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, shows in these decisions that he is a methodical tactician with sympathy for religious-discrimination claims but a deep skepticism of some civil rights suits.

Read entire article at NYT