Date: January 12, 2006
Senator: Witness - Axelrod
SPECTER: We'll now proceed with panel three.
And our first witness is Edna Axelrod. She's known Judge Alito for nearly 20 years, having worked with him when he was a United States attorney. She is a sole practitioner in South Orange, New Jersey. She served in the U.S. Attorney's Office from 1980 to '83, and '85 to '94, during Judge Alito's tenure as U.S. attorney. She had important positions as chief of the Appeals Division. She is a graduate of Duke's law school with a master's degree in law from Temple.
And we welcome you here, Ms. Axelrod.
We're going to have to be mindful of the time, because we have four panels and about 23 witnesses. (inaudible) Well, I would like to, but it's subject to negotiations with you, Senator Leahy.
LEAHY: Mr. Chairman, could I just ask you to consider (ph) the number of letters I have of usual things to put in the record.
SPECTER: Sure, without objection, they will be made a part of the record. Thank you, Ms. Axelrod for being here, and we're starting the clock for five minutes.
AXELROD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I appreciate the opportunity to appear here today to testify in support of the nomination of Samuel Alito.
I am a former chief of the Appeals Division of the United States Attorney's Office of the District of New Jersey, and for the past 11 years I have practiced as a federal criminal defense attorney in northern New Jersey.
At this point in these proceedings, I am sure there's little need to provide further comment concerning Judge Alito's legal acumen and outstanding accomplishments. However, I hope that the committee may find it useful to hear the insights and observations of someone who worked closely with Judge Alito during the period of time that he served as United States Attorney for the district of New Jersey.
I first met Judge Alito when I joined the United States Attorney's Office in 1980. At that time, he was laboring in the appeals division, and I was in the frauds division. As a rookie, I quickly learned that if I ran into a particularly thorny legal or procedural problem, the most knowledgeable and approachable person to consult was Sam Alito. Although he soon left for the Solicitor General's Office, he returned in 1987 as United States Attorney.
Shortly after his arrival, he began selecting the supervisory staff who would assist him during his tenure. And after reviewing my work in the appeals division, he asked me to serve as chief of appeals. This was particularly meaningful to me for two reasons. First, Judge Alito's estimable as an appellate and Supreme Court advocate had preceded him, and the importance that he placed on the appellate process was well known. Second, in 1987, it was still unusual for women to be elevated to positions of authority in either government or private offices, and I was gratified to see that Judge Alito's appointments were based on merit, not gender.
As a member of his supervisory staff, I met frequently with Judge Alito, sometimes alone, but usually with other division chiefs, to discuss ongoing, significant criminal prosecutions, appeals and investigative initiatives. During these meetings, he openly invited the thoughts and input of everyone, asking subtle questions to guide the discussion to areas where he had concerns. Although it was clear that in the end, he would make up is own mind, it was equally clear that there was no danger in advocating a position that he might ultimately reject.
His goal was to get as much information as possible, so his decisions could be firmly grounded in a comprehensive understanding of the law and the facts. Consistent with this approach, the stewardship of the office was grounded in quiet confidence. His decisions and actions were measured and thoughtful, never impulsive or purely reactive. Although it is possible for U.S. Attorneys to use their offices as showcases for themselves in their further aspirations, that is, to enjoy and employ the limelight, this was never Judge Alito's way. It was always the work, not the image, that came first.
It is a well-known motto of federal prosecutors, one most often heard on those occasions when they suffer defeat, that the United States wins when justice is done. Under the leadership of Samuel Alito, and I should say Judge Alito, that was more than a catch phrase. It was office policy. Judge Alito expected the assistants in his office to work hard to achieve and preserve convictions where the evidence supported guilt. But he also demanded that they remain ever- mindful of the very great power that they wielded as federal prosecutors and the need to use that power with appropriate discretion.
Based on my experience in that office, I am confident that Judge Alito would approach the power of being on the Supreme Court with an equal, if not heightened, sense of responsibility and care. As I noted earlier, I am presently a criminal defense attorney, and I am also a lifelong Democrat. As such, I might be expected to have concerns about Judge Alito's nomination. However, in supporting his nomination, I am actually representative of a large number of former colleagues of Judge Alito, of all political stripes, who support his nomination because they know firsthand what kind of man he is.
Those of us who know him know that he is not an ideologue, and that he does not use his position to pursue personal agendas. We have seen his profound respect for the law and precedent and his unfailing respect for all participants in the criminal justice system: prosecutor, defense counsel and defendant alike. We know him to be a man of unquestionable ability and integrity, one who approaches each case in an open-minded way, seeking to apply the law fairly.
The appointment of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court in 1981 was an event of special importance to me. At the time, I thought that the most significant fact was that she was a woman, the first woman, on the court. And of course that was truly groundbreaking. But in time, I have come to appreciate that, more than her gender, it is her extraordinary mixture of character and intellect that has most profited our country. As a person of both great character and great intellect, Samuel Alito would be a worthy successor to Justice O'Connor, and I hope that he will be speedily confirmed. Thank you very much.