Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr.
(born April 1, 1950) is an Associate
Justice of the Supreme Court of the United
He was appointed by President George W. Bush
and has served on the court since January 31, 2006.
Hamilton Township, New Jersey and educated at Princeton University and Yale Law School,
Alito served as U.S.
for the District of New Jersey
and a judge on the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
prior to joining
the Supreme Court. He is the 110th
and the second Italian
to serve on the court. Alito is generally considered a
with a libertarian
streak (especially on
issues related to religious affairs).
Early life and education
born in Trenton, New
Jersey, to Italian
American parents: Italian immigrant Samuel A.
Sr., and the former Rose Fradusco. Alito's father, now deceased,
was a high school teacher and then became the first Director of the
New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, a position he held from
1952 to 1984. Alito's mother is a retired schoolteacher.
up in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, a suburb of Trenton. He attended Steinert High
School in Hamilton Township and graduated from Princeton
Wilson School of Public and International Affairs with a
Bachelor of Arts in 1972 before
attending Yale Law School, where he
served as editor on the Yale Law
Journal and earned a Juris
Doctor in 1975.
At Princeton, Alito led a student conference in 1971 called "The
Boundaries of Privacy in American Society" which, among other
things, supported curbs on domestic intelligence gathering, called
for the decriminalization
, and urged for an end to
discrimination against gays
While a sophomore at Princeton, Alito received the low lottery
number 32, in a Selective Service
drawing on December 1, 1969. In 1970, he became a member of the school's
program, attending a six-week basic summer camp that year at
Knox, Kentucky, in lieu of
having been in ROTC during his first two years in college.
Alito was a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton
which was formed in October 1972 at least in part to oppose
Princeton's decisions regarding affirmative action
. Apart from Alito's
written 1985 statement of membership of CAP on a job application,
which Alito says was truthful, there is no other documentation of
Alito's involvement with or contributions in the group. Alito has
cited the banning and subsequent treatment of ROTC
by the university as his reason for belonging to
senior year at Princeton, Alito moved out of New Jersey for the
first time to study in Italy, where he
wrote his thesis on the Italian legal system.
1972, Alito left a sign of his lofty aspirations in his yearbook,
which said that he hoped to "eventually warm a seat on the Supreme
He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps
graduation and assigned to the United States Army Reserve
his graduation from Yale Law School in 1975, he served on active
duty from September to December 1975, while attending the Officer
Basic Course for Signal Corps officers at Fort Gordon, Georgia.
The remainder of his time in the Army was
served in the inactive Reserves. He had the rank of Captain when he
received an Honorable Discharge
Early legal career
After graduating from Yale Law School in 1975, where he was an
editor of the Yale Law Journal
Alito clerked for Third Circuit appeals judge Leonard I. Garth in
He interviewed with Supreme Court Justice
for a clerkship, but White
only wanted to talk about football
in the interview, and Alito was not hired.
During 1976–1977 Alito was Law clerk
Leonard I. Garth
of the Third
.During 1977–1981 Alito was Assistant United States Attorney
, District of
.While serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for New
Jersey, he prosecuted many cases that involved drug trafficking
and organized crime
During 1981–1985 Alito was Assistant to Solicitor General Rex E. Lee
12 cases before the Supreme Court for the federal government during
his tenure as assistant to the Solicitor General.During 1985–1987
Alito was Deputy Assistant to Attorney General Edwin Meese
.In his 1985 application for Deputy
Assistant to the Attorney General, Alito espoused conservative
views, naming William F. Buckley, Jr.
, the National Review
, Alexander Bickel
, and Barry Goldwater
's 1964 presidential campaign
as major influences.He also expressed concern about Warren Court
decisions in the areas of criminal
procedure, the Establishment
, and reapportionment
During 1987–1990 Alito was United States
Attorney for the District of New Jersey
Court of Appeals judge
Nomination and confirmation
Alito was nominated by President George H. W. Bush
on February 20, 1990 to the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
, to a seat
vacated by John Joseph Gibbons
Alito was rated by the American
as "Well Qualified" at the time of his
nomination. He was confirmed by unanimous consent
in the Senate
on April 27, 1990, and received
his commission three days later. As a Third Circuit judge, his chambers
were in Newark, New
- First Amendment
- A majority opinion in Saxe v.
College Area School District, 240 F.3d 200 (3d Cir. 2001),
holding that a public school district's anti-harassment policy was
unconstitutionally overbroad and therefore violated First
Amendment guarantees of free
- A majority opinion in ACLU
168 F.3d 92 (3d Cir. 1999), holding that a government-sponsored
holiday display consisting solely of religious symbols was
impermissible, but that a mixed display including both secular and
religious symbols was permissible if balanced in a generally
- A dissenting opinion in C. H. v. Oliva et al. (3d Cir. 2000),
arguing that the removal and subsequent replacement in "a less
conspicuous spot" of a kindergartener's religious themed poster
was, at least potentially, a violation of his right to free
- Fourth and Eighth Amendments
- A dissenting opinion in Doe
v. Groody, arguing
that qualified immunity should
have protected police officers from a finding of having violated
constitutional rights when they strip-searched a mother and her ten-year-old
daughter while carrying out a search
warrant that authorized the search of a residence.
- A unanimous opinion in Chadwick v. Janecka (3d Cir. 2002), holding
that there was "no federal constitutional bar" to the "indefinite
confinement" of a man imprisoned for civil contempt because he claimed he could
not pay his $2.5 million debt to his wife.
- Civil rights
- A majority opinion in Williams
v. Price, 343
F.3d 223 (3d Cir. 2003), granting a writ of habeas corpus to a black state prisoner after
state courts had refused to consider the testimony of a witness who
stated that a juror had uttered derogatory remarks about blacks
during an encounter in the courthouse after the conclusion of the
- A dissenting opinion in Glass v.
Electric Company, 34 F.3d 188 (3rd Cir. 1994), arguing
that a lower court did not abuse its discretion in excluding
certain evidence of past conduct that defendant had created a
hostile and racist work environment.
- A majority opinion in Robinson v. City of Pittsburgh, 120
F.3d 1286 (3rd Cir. 1997), rejecting a female police officer's
sexual harassment and retaliation claims against the city and
certain police officials and rejecting her Title VII-based retaliation claim against the
city, but allowing her Title VII-based
sexual harassment claim against
1985, Alito has been married to Martha-Ann Alito (born Martha-Ann
Bomgardner), once a law librarian who met
Alito due to his many trips to the library as a legal clerk; she
has family roots in Oklahoma.
They have two college-age children: Philip
and Laura. Alito resided with his family in West
Caldwell, New Jersey before his Supreme Court nomination.
since moved to a home in Washington D.C..
As adjunct professor
at Seton Hall University School
in Newark from 1999 to 2004, Alito taught courses in
original course on terrorism
and civil liberties
. In 1995, Judge Alito was
presented with that law school's Saint
Medal, "in recognition of his outstanding
contributions to the field of law." On May 25, 2007, he delivered
the commencement address at Seton Hall Law's commencement ceremony
and received an honorary law degree from the law school.
He has been a member of the Federalist Society
, a group of
conservatives and libertarian
and legal students interested in conservative legal theory.
Nomination to U.S. Supreme Court and confirmation hearings
1, 2005, Associate
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
announced her retirement from the Supreme
Court effective upon the confirmation of a
President George W. Bush first nominated John Roberts
to the vacancy; however, when
died on September 3
, Bush withdrew Roberts' nomination
to fill O'Connor's seat and instead nominated Roberts to the Chief
Justiceship. On October 3
, President Bush
nominated Harriet Miers
O'Connor. However, Miers withdrew her acceptance of the nomination
on October 27
On October 31
, President Bush announced
that he was nominating Alito to O'Connor's seat, and he submitted
the nomination to the Senate on November 10, 2005. Judge Alito was
unanimously rated "well qualified" to fill the Associate Justice
post by the American Bar
's Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary, which
measures the professional qualifications of a nominee. The
committee rates judges as "not qualified," "qualified," or "well
Alito's confirmation hearing was held from January 9 to January 13,
2006. On January 24
, his nomination was
voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 10-8 party line
vote. Democratic Senators characterized Alito as a hard right
conservative in the mold of a Clarence
or Robert Bork
professed reluctance to commit to any type of ideology, stating he
would act as an impartial referee. On the abortion issue, he stated
that he would look at that with an open mind but would not state
how he would rule on Roe v.
if that issue were to come
up before the court. Some pro-life activists, however, claim
Alito's confirmation as a victory for their cause.
Democrats on the committee grilled Alito on his past association
with the conservative group Concerned Alumni of Princeton
Alito stated that he had listed an affiliation with the group on
his application to Ronald Reagan's Justice Department in order to
establish his conservative credentials: "You have to look at the
question that I was responding to and the form that I was filling
out... I was applying for a position in the Reagan administration.
And my answers were truthful statements, but what I was trying to
outline were the things that were relevant to obtaining a political
position." During the confirmation hearings, Alito disavowed the
group, whose views were criticized as racist and sexist, saying: "I
disavow them. I deplore them. They represent things that I have
always stood against and I can't express too strongly."
The American Civil
(ACLU) formally opposed Alito's nomination. The
ACLU has only taken this step two other times in its entire
history, the last time being with the nomination of Robert Bork
who was rejected by a 58-42 vote in
the Senate. In releasing its report on Alito, ACLU Executive
Director Anthony Romero
decision saying that "At a time when our president has claimed
unprecedented authority to spy on Americans and jail terrorism
suspects indefinitely, America needs a Supreme Court justice who
will uphold our precious civil
. Judge Alito's record shows a willingness to support
government actions that abridge individual freedoms."
Debate on the nomination began in the full Senate on January 25
. After a failed filibuster
attempt by Senator John Kerry
, on January
, the Senate confirmed Alito to the Supreme Court by a vote
of 58-42, with four Democratic senators voting for confirmation and
one Republican and an Independent voting against. Alito's
confirmation vote was the second lowest on the current court, where
he is surpassed only by Clarence
who was confirmed 52-48. Justice Alito became the
, the second Italian
, and the 12th Catholic in the history of the Supreme
Court, and the fifth Catholic on the Court at the time he assumed
U.S. Supreme Court career
Because Alito joined the court mid-term, he had not heard arguments
for many cases which had yet to be decided. The decisions in most
of those cases were released without his participation (i.e., with
an 8-member Court); none were 4-4, so Alito would not have been the
deciding vote in any of them if he had participated. Three cases —
, Hudson v. Michigan
, and Kansas v. Marsh
— were reargued, since a tie
needed to be broken.
Justice Alito delivered his first written opinion on May 1, 2006 in
the case Holmes v.
case involving the right of criminal defendants to present evidence
that a third party committed the crime. (Since the beginning of the
, new justices have
been given unanimous opinions to write as their first majority
court opinion, often done as a courtesy "breaking in" of new
justices, so that every justice has at least one unanimous,
uncontroversial opinion under his/her belt with which to battle
critics). Alito wrote for a unanimous court in ordering a new trial
for Bobby Lee Holmes due to South Carolina's rule that barred such
evidence based on the strength of the prosecution's case, rather
than on the relevance and strength of the defense evidence itself.
His other majority opinions in his first term were in Zedner v. United States
, Woodford v. Ngo
, and Arlington
Central School District Board of Education v. Murphy
In his first term, Alito voted fairly conservatively. For example,
in the three reargued cases (Garcetti v.
, Hudson v. Michigan
Kansas v. Marsh
), Alito created a 5-4 majority by
voting with four other conservative Justices — Chief Justice Roberts
and Justices Scalia
, and Thomas
. He further voted with the
conservative wing of the court on Sanchez-Llamas v.
. Alito was also a dissenter in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld
, alongside Justices Scalia
While Alito's voting record is conservative, he does not always
join the most conservative Justices on the Court. On February 1,
2006, in Alito's first decision sitting on the Supreme Court, he
voted with the majority (6-3) to refuse Missouri's request to
vacate the stay of execution
issued by the Eighth
for death-row inmate Michael Taylor
; Chief Justice
Roberts and Justices Scalia and Thomas were in favor of vacating
the stay. Missouri had twice asked the justices to lift the stay
and permit the execution.
On the abortion issue, it appears that Alito believes some
restrictions on the procedure are constitutionally
has not signaled a willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade
In 2003, Congress passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban
, which led to a lawsuit in the case of Gonzales v. Carhart
. The Court had previously
ruled in Stenberg v.
that a state's
ban on partial birth abortion
was unconstitutional because such a ban did not have an exception
in the case of a threat to the health of the mother. The membership
of the Court changed after Stenberg
, with John Roberts and
Samuel Alito replacing William Rehnquist (a dissenter in
) and Sandra Day O'Connor (a supporter of Roe
respectively. Further, the ban at issue in Gonzales v.
was a federal statute, rather than a state statute
as in the Stenberg case.
On April 18, 2007, the Supreme Court handed down a decision ruling
constitutional the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Justice Anthony
Kennedy wrote for the five-justice majority that Congress was
within its power to generally ban the procedure, although the Court
left open the door for as-applied challenges. Kennedy, writing for
the court, implied but did not absolutely reach the question
whether the Court's prior decisions in Roe v. Wade
, Planned Parenthood v.
Stenberg v. Carhart
were valid, and instead the
Court said that the challenged statute is consistent with those
prior decisions whether or not those prior decisions were
Alito joined fully in the majority as did Chief Justice Roberts.
Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justice
Scalia, contending that the Court's prior decisions in Roe
and Planned Parenthood v.
should be reversed, and also noting that the
Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act may exceed the powers of Congress
under the Commerce Clause. Alito, Roberts, and Kennedy did not join
that assertion. Justices Ginsburg, Souter, Breyer, and Stevens
dissented, contending that the ruling ignored Supreme Court
Moreover, despite having been at one time nicknamed "Scalito,"
Alito's views have differed from those of Scalia (and Thomas), as
in the Michael Taylor case cited above and various other cases of
the 2005 term. Scalia, a fierce critic of reliance on legislative
history in statutory interpretation, was the only member of the
Court in Zedner v.
to join a section of Alito's opinion that discussed the legislative
history of the statute in question. In two higher-profile cases,
involving the constitutionality of political gerrymandering and
campaign finance reform
(LULAC v. Perry
and Randall v. Sorrell
), Alito adopted narrow
positions, declining to join the bolder positions advanced by
either philosophical side of the Court. According to a
scotusblog.com analysis of 2005 term decisions, Alito and Scalia
concurred in the result of 86% of decisions (in which both
participated), and concurred in full in only 75%. (By
scotusblog.com's reckoning, this is less agreement than between
Scalia and Kennedy, O'Connor and Souter, or Stevens and Ginsburg.)
On the recent abortion ruling, Alito simply joined Anthony
Kennedy's opinion rather than join Scalia in Thomas's stronger
In the 2007 landmark free speech case Morse v. Frederick
, Alito joined Roberts'
majority decision that speech advocating drug use can be banned in
public schools, but also warned that the ruling must be
circumscribed that it does not interfere with political speech,
such as the discussion of the medical
Alito's majority opinion in the 2008 worker protection case
way for federal workers who experience retaliation after filing age
discrimination complaints to sue for damages. He sided with the
liberal bloc of the court, inferring protection against retaliation
in the federal-sector provision of the Age Discrimination in
despite the lack of an explicit provision
- Charles Babington, The Washington Post (Feb. 1, 2006) "Alito Is
Sworn In On High Court ". Accessed 08/23/2009.
- Guy Taylor, "Alito called 'perfect' student," Washington
Times, December 13, 2005.
- Dale Russakoff and Jo Becker, "A Search for Order, Answer in
the Law," Washington Post, January 8, 2006
- Barone, Michael. "It's inspiring to see Alito's background come to
foreground: Alito", Chicago Sun-Times, January 18, 2006.
Accessed September 7, 2007. "In his opening statement to the
Judiciary Committee, Judge Samuel Alito told the senators where he
comes from. First, Hamilton Township, N.J., the modest-income
suburb of Trenton, where he grew up."
- Samuel A. Alito, Jr. biography, FindLaw, accessed November 20,
- Daily Princetonian
- The washington Post(November 3, 2005) "Alito Joined ROTC While at Princeton".
- " Alito has a record of steady conservatism,
reputation for civility", Chicago Tribune, October 31,
- Las Vegas Sun, October 31, 2005
- Washington Times, November 14, 2005
- Search Results - THOMAS (Library of
- Alito's Supreme Court Nomination Confirmed,
National Public Radio. Accessed
September 20, 2007. "Alito and his wife, Martha-Ann Bomgardner,
live in West Caldwell, N.J."
- Error 404"Page Not Found"- Seton Hall University
- Alito Given Honorary Degree
- Received Honorary Doctor of Laws from
Hampden-Sydney College on May 13, 2007.
- (Hook, 1)
- New York Times (October 31, 2005) "Bush Picks Appeals Court
Judge to Succeed O'Connor on Court".
- USA Today (01/04/2006) "Alito gets 'well-qualified' rating from American
- Reaction to Nomination of Samuel Alito to Supreme
Court, Concerned Women of America. Accessed March 27,
- Robert Bork and John Roberts
- Alito Confirmed as Newest Supreme Court Justice :
- Religious affiliation of Supreme Court justices
Note: Justice Sherman Minton converted to Catholicism after
- CNN (Feb 2, 2006) "Justice Alito casts his first vote"
- SCOTUS Blog
- Bazelon, Emily (October 31, 2005). "Alito
v. O'Connor". Slate.
- "Bush choice sets up court battle".
- Collins, Ronald K.L. (October 31, 2005). Judge Alito: fairly strong on free
- Collins, Ronald K.L. (November 3, 2005). Alito as government lawyer: '84
- Davis, Elliott M. (Summer 2007). The Newer Textualism: Justice Alito's Statutory
Interpretation. Harvard Journal of Law & Public
- Dickerson, John (October 31, 2005). "Ready
To Rumble". Slate.
- Federal Judicial Center. Judges
of the United States (official curriculum vitae).
- Hook, Janet (November 1, 2005). "Bush's Supreme Court Nominee:
A Phillies Fan With Blue-Chip Legal Stats." Los Angeles Times. P. A1.