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Democrats criticize US Sen. Scott Brown for praising Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia

Brown was asked during a televised debate with Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren on Monday night to name a “model” Supreme Court justice. Scalia was the first name Brown mentioned, followed quickly by Chief Justice John Roberts, associate justice Anthony Kennedy and associate justice Sonia Sotomayor, an appointee of President Barack Obama.

After the debate, Warren described herself as “amazed” by Brown’s naming of Scalia and said it gave an indication of the kind of Supreme Court the Republican would like to see.

During a conference call arranged Tuesday by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, pointed to Scalia’s “adamant” opposition to Roe v. Wade and stated belief that women have no constitutional right to birth control.

Murray said the mention of Scalia was a “shockingly revealing moment” for the Massachusetts senator.

Boxer said Brown’s answer aligned him with the “intellectual leader of the far right” on the high court.

“Every now and then voters get a window into the true views of a candidate,” Boxer said. “Scott Brown calling Justice Antonin Scalia his model of what a Supreme Court justice should be was one of those moments.”

Brown, who won a 2010 special election to succeed the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, said during a campaign stop in Worcester on Tuesday that he admires Scalia for his intellect and sharp legal mind, not necessarily for his positions.

He also noted that Kennedy and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry voted for Scalia when his nomination by President Ronald Reagan was confirmed unanimously by the Senate. Kerry later said that he regretted voting for Scalia.

Brown has repeatedly stressed his support for abortion rights, though critics have pointed to other votes in the Senate, including his decision earlier this year to support an amendment that would have let employers deny health care coverage for services they say violate their moral or religious beliefs, including birth control.

The exchange in question occurred late in Monday’s debate in Lowell when moderator David Gregory, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” asked the candidates to identify their model Supreme Court justice.

Brown, answering first, paused momentarily and called it a “great question,” before saying: “I think Justice Scalia is a very good judge.” Warren, a Harvard Law School professor and consumer advocate, appeared to smirk at the answer, and some of her supporters in the audience booed.

Brown immediately added the names of Kennedy, Roberts and Sotomayer. When Gregory noted the sharp philosophical divide between Scalia and Sotomayer on some issues, Brown used it to tout his own independent streak. When prodded by Gregory to pick one model justice, the senator declined.

Warren named associate justice Elena Kagan, former dean of Harvard Law School, as her model Supreme Court Justice. In the initial debate between the two candidates last month, Brown said he voted against Kagan because she lacked courtroom experience.

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