Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
On January 31, 2006, after serving for more than 15 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. joined the U.S. Supreme Court as its 110th member. Alito's confirmation process was a contentious one, and came only after President George W. Bush's first nominee, White House Counsel Harriet Miers, withdrew herself from consideration because of criticism that she was unqualified. The Senate confirmed Alito by a vote of 58 to 42, the closest confirmation vote in more than a decade, after a failed attempt by Senate Democrats to filibuster the nomination.
Unlike Miers, Alito was almost universally recognized as intellectually qualified. A graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School (where he served as editor of the Yale Law Journal), he received a unanimous "well qualified" rating from the American Bar Association (the rating measures judicial temperament, not ideology). Moreover, Alito's nomination to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 1990 was approved by unanimous consent in a Democratic Senate. Historically, the confirmation process for appeals court judges has centered around their intellectual qualifications rather than their judicial ideology, because they are bound by the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court and therefore have less flexibility in their decision-making.
The controversy over Alito centered instead on his judicial beliefs about such hot-button issues as abortion, Presidential powers, and electoral reapportionment. Based on his work in the Justice Department during the Reagan Administration and his rulings as an appellate judge, critics claimed that his views were "outside the mainstream." They pointed, for example, to Alito's dissent as a Circuit Court judge in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which dealt with Pennsylvania's restrictions about when a woman could receive an abortion and who needed to be notified of it. Alito voted to uphold a portion of the law that required that a husband be notified when his wife sought an abortion; when the case eventually made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court rejected Alito's reasoning.
Critics also pointed to a 1985 application for a promotion in the Justice Department, in which Alito stated that he had been motivated to go to law school by conservative writings criticizing the Warren Court's decisions in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment. Moreover, he wrote that he was proud to represent the administration's legal view that "racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." During his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Alito explained that, while the statements were accurate at the time, they were written as part of an application for a political appointment in the conservative Reagan administration and did not necessarily reflect his views as a judge.
On a less contentious note, Alito also attributed much of his approach to the law to what he learned from his father while growing up. His father, a long- time employee of the New Jersey state legislature, was a first-generation Italian American. During his confirmation hearings, Alito stated that the stories his father told him about being discriminated against for his nationality and Catholic religion and about having to build a comfortable life from humble beginnings had made him more disposed to treat everyone who came before him with respect. These statements were made in response to criticism that, as a Circuit Court judge, Alito had consistently ruled against the poor and minority litigants who came before him.
His wife, Martha-Ann, whom he married in 1985, joined Alito at the confirmation hearings. He also has two children, Philip and Laura.
|Clerk||Law School||Terms Clerked|
|Jessica Phillips||Northwestern (2006)||2007|
|Michael S. Lee||BYU (1997)||2006|
|Christopher J. Paolella||Harvard (1999)||2006|
|Matthew A. Schwartz||Columbia (2003)||2006|
|Gordon D. Todd||Virginia (2000)||2006|
|Adam G. Ciongoli||Georgetown (1995)|
|Benjamin J. Horwich||Stanford (2003)|
|Hannah Clayson Smith||BYU (2001)|
|Sasha Volokh||Harvard (2004)|