Will the next judge play fair?

Political groups are gathering forces in preparation for the battle for confirmation of Samuel Alito as the next associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.Outspoken conservative groups have declared their support for Alito, as he is against abortion. Liberal groups, and many important Democratic senators, oppose his nomination and plan to make confirmation very difficult.

The entire discussion about Alito’s qualification for the high court circles around his stance on this single issue.

But there are many other issues to consider, and Alito is not a one-dimensional legal mind.

No one disputes the fact that Alito is politically right-of-center – he was nominated by a conservative Republican, so nobody should be surprised.

Alito is, however, another white male pegged for elevation to a high position at a time when many feel minority representation on the court is needed. Especially as the court’s first female justice steps down.

The question central to Alito’s confirmation should not involve his race, gender, religious or political views. Inevitably, these will all be important elements of the debate, but there is only one question of real value: Will Alito’s decisions reflect legal precedent weighed against collective public opinion, or will he decide based on his personal politics?

Alito may be conservative, but many of his decisions have been amiable to liberals and moderates as well. Other decisions would make their blood curdle.

Alito has decided many cases on a strict interpretation of the First Amendment. He has decided against groups forcing a choice between religion and employment, struck down laws prohibiting alcohol advertising on campuses and even decided against rules limiting free speech, even when the content of such speech is offensive.

Other decisions have made bankruptcy more difficult and taken a hard-line stance on drug enforcement.

Alito has an extensive legal record. Many do not know what to think of this nominee yet, but everyone must ask him or herself if Alito’s decisions reflect the views needed on the high court.

Opinion Editor Brian Chatman for the Editorial Board.