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Senate Democrats question Alito participation in mutual fund case

[JURIST] US Senate Democrats Wednesday launched their first concerted effort to challenge the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito [official profile; US News profile] to the US Supreme Court by requesting information regarding a 2002 case he participated in involving mutual fund company Vanguard [corporate website], with which he had a six-figure investment. Eight Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] sent a letter to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] requesting the unpublished opinion in the case brought by a widow who claimed she was denied funds due her deceased husband. The three-judge panel ruled in favor of Vanguard and other investment firms. The letter also requested information from the White House or Justice Department regarding Alito's decision to participate in the case after he made a promise in 1990 to "disqualify myself from any cases involving the Vanguard companies." The White House responded by saying Alito has remained ethical throughout his career and that "Judge Alito looks forward to answering any questions that committee members may ask him at the hearing about this issue." US Sen. Edward Kennedy [official website] also sent a letter [text] directly to Alito questioning his decision to hear the 2002 case. The Judiciary Committee has scheduled Alito's nomination hearings to begin January 9 [JURIST report]. AP has more.

6:18 PM ET - Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent Alito a letter Thursday urging him to promptly explain why he ruled in cases involving Vanguard and Smith Barney, another firm that helped manage Alito's investments. Specter said that he believes that there was "no impropriety on [Alito's] part," but nonetheless urged the nominee to make a full public response as to why he didn't recuse himself from the cases. Reuters has more.

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