Samuel Alito

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Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr.
Samuel Alito

Assumed office 
January 31, 2006
Nominated by George W. Bush
Preceded by Sandra Day O'Connor

In office
1987 – 1990
Preceded by Thomas W. Greelish
Succeeded by Michael Chertoff

Born April 1, 1950 (1950-04-01) (age 58)
Trenton, New Jersey
Spouse Martha Alito
Alma mater Princeton University
Yale Law School
Religion Roman Catholic

Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. (born April 1, 1950) is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Appointed by President George W. Bush, Alito is generally considered a fairly conservative jurist with a libertarian streak (especially on First Amendment issues);[1] since becoming a member of the Supreme Court, he has often voted with conservative members of the court, but not to the extent of Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia.[citation needed]

Educated at Princeton University and Yale Law School, Alito served as U.S. Attorney 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 justice.[2][3]


[edit] Personal life

Since 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;[4] 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.[5] He has since moved to a home in Washington D.C..

[edit] Early career

After graduating from Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal,[6] Alito clerked for Third Circuit appeals judge Leonard I. Garth in Newark, New Jersey.[4] He interviewed with Supreme Court Justice Byron White for a clerkship, but White only wanted to talk about football in the interview, and Alito was not hired.[4]

[edit] Career

Alito argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court for the federal government during his tenure as assistant to the Solicitor General. While serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, he prosecuted many cases that involved drug trafficking and organized crime.[7]

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 Clause, and reapportionment.[8]

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 Bar Association as "Well Qualified" at the time of his nomination. He was confirmed by unanimous consent in the Senate on April 27, 1990,[9] and received his commission three days later. As a Third Circuit judge, his chambers were in Newark, New Jersey.[4]

As adjunct professor at Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark, Alito has taught courses in constitutional law and an original course on terrorism and civil liberties. In 1995, Judge Alito was presented with that law school's Saint Thomas More Medal, "in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field of law."[10] 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.[11][12]

He has been a member of the Federalist Society, a group of conservatives and libertarian lawyers and legal students interested in conservative legal theory.[13]

[edit] Opinions as court of appeals judge

[edit] Federalism

[edit] First Amendment

  • A majority opinion in Saxe v. State 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 speech.
  • A majority opinion in ACLU v. Schundler, 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 secular context.
  • 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 expression.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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 trial.[14]
  • A dissenting opinion in Glass v. Philadelphia 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 Equal Protection-based 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 the city.

[edit] Nomination to U.S. Supreme Court and confirmation hearings

Samuel Alito acknowledges his nomination.

On July 1, 2005, Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement from the Supreme Court effective upon the confirmation of a successor. President George W. Bush first nominated John Roberts to the vacancy; however, when Chief Justice William Rehnquist 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 to replace O'Connor. However, Miers withdrew her acceptance of the nomination on October 27 after encountering widespread opposition.

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 Association's Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary, which measures the professional qualifications of a nominee. The committee rates judges as "not qualified," "qualified," or "well qualified."[15]

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 Thomas or Robert Bork. Alito 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. Wade 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.[16]

The American Civil Liberties Union (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.[17] In releasing their report[18] on Alito, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero justified the 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 liberties. Judge Alito's record shows a willingness to support government actions that abridge individual freedoms."[19]

Debate on the nomination began in the full Senate on January 25. After a failed filibuster attempt by Senator John Kerry, on January 31, the Senate confirmed Alito to the Supreme Court by a vote of 58-42,[20] 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 Thomas who was confirmed 52-48. Justice Alito became the the second Italian American and the 12th Catholic in the history of the Supreme Court, and the fifth Catholic on the Court at the time he assumed office.[21]

[edit] 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 — Garcetti v. Ceballos, 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. South Carolina, a case involving the right of criminal defendants to present evidence that a third-party committed the crime. (Since the beginning of the Rehnquist Court, 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.

Alito ceremonially sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts the day after his confirmation, February 1, 2006.

In his first term, Alito voted fairly conservatively. For example, in the three reargued cases (Garcetti v. Ceballos, Hudson v. Michigan and Kansas v. Marsh), Alito created a 5-4 majority by voting with four other conservative Justices — Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas. He further voted with the conservative wing of the court on Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon[22] and Rapanos v. United States. Alito was also a dissenter in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, alongside Justices Scalia and Thomas.

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 Circuit 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.[23]

On the abortion issue, it appears that Alito believes some restrictions on the procedure are constitutionally permitted, but has not signaled a willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In 2003, Congress passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which led to a lawsuit in the case of Gonzales v. Carhart. The Court had previously ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart 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 Roe) and Sandra Day O'Connor (a supporter of Roe) respectively. Further, the ban at issue in Gonzales v. Carhart 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 upholding the constitutionality of 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 the door open for as-applied challenges. Kennedy's opinion implied but did not absolutely reach the question whether the Court's prior decisions in Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and 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 valid.

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 v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey 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 sign on to that assertion. Justices Ginsburg, Souter, Breyer, and Stevens dissented, contending that the ruling ignored Supreme Court abortion precedent.

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. United States not 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 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%.[24] (By'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 assertion.

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 marijuana debate.

Alito's majority opinion in the 2008 worker protection case Gomez-Perez v. Potter cleared the way for federal workers who experience retaliation after filing age discrimination complaints to sue for damages. He sided with the liberal block of the court, inferring protection against retaliation in the federal-sector provision of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act despite the lack of an explicit provision concerning retaliation.

[edit] Related documents

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Somin, Ilya (November 10, 2005). "Alito's Libertarian Streak". Cato Institute. Retrieved on 2008-10-17. 
  2. ^ Hurt, Charles (February 1, 2006). "Alito sworn in as 110th justice". Washington Times. Retrieved on 2007-03-30. 
  3. ^ "Alito sworn in as nation's 110th Supreme Court justice (". Retrieved on February 4 2006. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Jan Crawford Greenburg (2007). Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court. Penguin Group. Retrieved on 2008-10-20. 
  5. ^ 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."
  6. ^
  7. ^ Las Vegas Sun, October 31, 2005
  8. ^ Washington Times, November 14, 2005
  9. ^ Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress)
  10. ^ Error 404"Page Not Found"- Seton Hall University
  11. ^ Alito Given Honorary Degree
  12. ^ Received Honorary Doctor of Laws from Hampden-Sydney College on May 13, 2007.
  13. ^ (Hook, 1)
  14. ^
  15. ^[dead link]
  16. ^ Reaction to Nomination of Samuel Alito to Supreme Court, Concerned Women of America. Accessed March 27, 2007.
  17. ^ Robert Bork and John Roberts
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Alito Confirmed as Newest Supreme Court Justice : NPR
  21. ^ Religious affiliation of Supreme Court justices Note: Justice Sherman Minton converted to Catholicism after he retired.
  22. ^
  23. ^[dead link]
  24. ^ SCOTUS Blog

[edit] Further sources

[edit] External links

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Legal offices
Preceded by
John Joseph Gibbons
Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
February 20, 1990 – January 31, 2006
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Sandra Day O'Connor
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Order of precedence in the United States of America
Preceded by
Stephen Breyer
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
United States order of precedence
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Succeeded by
Retired Chief Justices (none living); otherwise
Sandra Day O'Connor

Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

NAME Alito, Samuel Anthony, Jr.
SHORT DESCRIPTION Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
DATE OF BIRTH April 1, 1950
PLACE OF BIRTH Trenton, New Jersey
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