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Associate Justice Samuel Alito

The Enigma

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"Good judges are always open to the possibility of changing their minds based on the next brief they read or the next argument that is made..."
Associate Justice Samuel Alito

Associate Justice Samuel Alito

Image Courtesy of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals
The newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court is regarded as a reliable conservative, but his record is that of an unpredictable and fiercely independent justice who isn't afraid to hand down unpopular rulings. There are already indications that his tenure on the Court may surprise critics and supporters alike...

Vital Statistics


56 years old. Graduate of Princeton University (1972), where his yearbook entry read: "Sam intends to go to law school and eventually to warm a seat on the Supreme Court." Went on to graduate from Yale Law School (1975), where he served as editor of the Yale Law Review. Lifelong Roman Catholic. Married to law librarian Martha-Ann Bomgardner Alito, with two adult children.

Career Background


1975: On active duty with the U.S. Signal Corps, where he achieved the rank of second lieutenant. Continued to serve as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve until he was honorably discharged in 1980.

1976-1977: Clerked for Justice Leonard Garth of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

1977-1981: Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

1981-1985: Assistant to the Solicitor General for the U.S. Department of Justice under the Reagan administration.

1985-1987: Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice.

1987-1990: U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

1990-2006: Associate Justice for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. Nominated by President George Bush.

1999-2004: Adjunct Professor of Law at Seton Hall University.

Nomination and Approval


In July 2005, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced that she would retire as soon as a replacement could be found. When President George W. Bush nominated Alito in October, his name raised considerable controversy for a variety of reasons:

(1) His conservative reputation (he had already been branded with the unfortunate nickname of "Scalito" due to purported similarities between his judicial philosophy and that of Justice Scalia).

(2) Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's status as a moderate "swing vote" in many cases, and the perception that her replacement, regardless of ideology, would alter the balance of the Court.

(3) More general hostility directed against the Bush administration, centering on the War in Iraq.

Alito was approved by the Senate in January 2006 by a razor-thin 58-42 margin, after months of fierce opposition from progressive activist groups. He received the support of only four Democratic senators.

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