Samuel Alito

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Samuel Alito
Court Information:
Supreme Court of the United States
Title:   Associate justice
Appointed by:   George W. Bush
Approval vote:   58-42
Active:   1/31/2006-Present
Preceded by:   Sandra Day O'Connor
Past post:   Third Circuit Court of Appeals
Past term:   4/30/1990-1/31/2006
Personal History
Born:   4/1/1950
Hometown:   Trenton, NJ
Undergraduate:   Princeton University, 1972
Law School:   Yale Law, 1975
Military service:   U.S. Army

Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. is an associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. He was nominated by President George W. Bush on October 31, 2005, to fill the seat vacated by Sandra Day O'Connor. He was confirmed by the Senate and received his commission on January 31, 2006, becoming the 110th Supreme Court Justice of the United States.

Prior to his confirmation to the Supreme Court, Alito was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He was nominated to the court by President George H.W. Bush on February 20, 1990, and was confirmed by the Senate on April 27, 1990.[1]

Judicial philosophy

Alito is widely considered to have a conservative philosophy. He has been described as "prudent" and "cautious."[2][3] The Washington Post reported that lawyers and friends how knew Alito well described him as a "studious, diligent, scholarly judge with a first-rate mind and a deadpan sense of humor, a neutral arbiter who does not let personal beliefs affect his legal judgments."[4]

Early life and education

Alito earned his A.B. from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1972. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1975.[1]

While at Yale, Alito was the chairman and main developer of a conference that produced a report called "The Boundaries of Privacy in American Society" in 1972. The extensive report issued opinions on many aspects of privacy. Alito, as the chairman, authored the following:

We believe the potential for invasions of privacy through the use of computers is so great that all private computer systems should be licensed by the federal government. We propose the creation of a federal regulatory agency to supervise the licensing of systems and the enforcement of all federal regulations. We suggest the agency be staffed by career civil servants and that they be appointed to serve fixed terms. It is our hope that these measures would greatly hinder undue influence by interest groups. Any suspension of a license by the agency could be appealed to a District Court.[5][6]

In the same report, on laws concerning homosexuality, he wrote:

The Conference voted to recommend that the current sodomy laws be changed. The Conference believes that no private sexual act between consenting adults should be forbidden. Of course, acts of a coercive nature, acts involving minors, and acts which offend public decency should still be banned. Discrimination against homosexuals in hiring should be forbidden.[5][6]

Alito was also an editor for the Yale Law Journal.[7]

Military service

Alito was drafted to serve in the Vietnam War on December 1, 1969. He was able to defer his service while enrolled in college.[8] While at Princeton, he joined the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) so that he could enter active service as an officer after college. Alito was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant after his graduation from Princeton, but he deferred his service a second time as he entered Yale Law School. After graduation from law school, he served three months of active service from September to December of 1975. Alito served on the Reserves from 1972 until 1980, when he was honorably discharged at the rank of Captain.[9]

Professional career

Supreme Court of the United States

Opinions by year

Below is a table of the number of opinions, concurrences, dissents and splits (concur in part, dissent in part) that Alito has issued since joining the Supreme Court according to the data on Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute.[10]

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Totals
Opinions 5 6 7 6 7 7 0 0 38
Concurrences 3 4 3 9 9 7 0 0 35
Dissents 2 5 6 5 7 4 0 3 32
Concur in part, Dissent in part 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 2
Totals 10 15 16 21 23 19 0 3

Notable cases

Notable concurrences

Alito concurred with the majority on Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, but did not write an opinion.

Notable dissents

Alito dissented from the majority on Dennis Hollingsworth, et al. v. Kristin M. Perry et al., a case involving California's Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, but did not write an opinion.

Behavior on the Court

Visible display of dissent (2013)

In 2013, attention was drawn to Alito's decorum as a Supreme Court justice. Reporters described Alito shaking his head and rolling his eyes while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read a dissenting opinion. While there are no specific rules for what is proper decorum for a justice of the Supreme Court, it is widely held that they should uphold a higher standard of visual politeness, choosing instead to voice their disagreement with well-written words in an opinion or dissent.[13][14]

2010 State of the Union

Justice Alito at the State of the Union, 2010

Justice Alito received attention for his behavior during President Barack Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address for saying "not true" after President Obama criticized the Supreme Court for its ruling in the Citizens United v. FEC case.[15]

During the speech, President Obama criticized the Supreme Court, saying:

Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests including foreign corporations to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.[15][6]

Nomination and confirmation

Nomination Tracker
 Candidate:Samuel Alito
 Court:Supreme Court of the United States
 Progress:Confirmed 92 days after nomination.
ApprovedANominated:October 31, 2005
ApprovedAABA Rating:Unanimously Well Qualified
ApprovedAHearing:January 9-13, 2006
ApprovedAReported:January 24, 2006 
ApprovedAConfirmed:January 31, 2006
 Vote: 58-42

On October 31, 2005, Alito was the third person to be nominated by President George W. Bush to the vacancy that was created when Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement from the Supreme Court of the United States. The first was John Roberts, who was nominated to be Chief Justice after William Rehnquist passed away. The second was Harriet Miers, who withdrew her nomination after facing opposition.

Confirmation hearings

Day one

Alito's hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee lasted five days, from January 9, 2006, to January 13, 2006. On the first day of his hearing, Alito quickly dismissed Democrats' early attempts to define him as a judge with a conservative agenda:

When I became a judge, I stopped being a practicing attorney, and that was the big change in role. The role of a practicing attorney is to achieve a desirable result for the client in the particular case at hand. But a judge can't think that way. A judge can't have any agenda. A judge can't have any preferred outcome in any particular case. And a judge certainly doesn't have a client. The judge's only obligation--and it's a solemn obligation--is to the rule of law, and what that means is that in every single case, the judge has to do what the law requires.[6]

—Samuel Alito[16]

Republicans lauded his 15 years of experience as a Third Circuit Court of Appeals judge, the second most federal judicial experience of any Supreme Court nominee, as well as his prior public service.[17]

I am pleased to note that you have more judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years. Indeed, only one Supreme Court Justice in history, one Horace Lurton, nominated by President Taft, had more Federal appeals court experience. Moreover, you have devoted virtually your entire professional life to public service, and the Nation owes you gratitude for that service.


—Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), [16]

Day two

The second day of hearings found Alito facing questions about abortion, a theme that would last the following days. Senator Charles Schumer pressed Alito to answer if the right to an abortion was constitutionally protected. Alito continually deflected the question by stating that the Supreme Court had already ruled on Roe v. Wade, and he could not answer if there was wording in the constitution that protected the right to an abortion.[18] The Senate Judiciary Committee also questioned him about his thoughts on executive power, to which he replied:

Well, I think the first thing that has to be said is what I said yesterday, and that is that no person in this country is above the law, and that includes the President and it includes the Supreme Court. Everybody has to follow the law, and that means the Constitution of the United States and it means the laws that are enacted under the Constitution of the United States.[16][6]
Day three

The third day brought more questions about abortion, but the larger questions of the day focused on Alito's possible connection to the Concerned Alumni of Princeton University, which was a group that did not want to see more women and minorities attend Princeton. Questions were raised after an application to the Reagan administration showed that he had listed the group.[19] Alito was unable to recall ever being a part of the group, and quickly distanced himself from any ideological parallels.[20]

Day four

The fourth day tied up lose ends on the Concerned Alumni of Princeton University question. Senate aides spent the night combing through boxes of files from the conservative group and were unable to find anything linking Alito to them.[21] Alito also received strong support from his peers on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals:

The short of it, members of the Committee, is that Sam Alito is a superb judge in terms of temperament, integrity and intellect, and he has exhibited a careful, temperate, case-by-case approach to the law.


—Former Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Hon. Edward Becker, [16]

Day five

On January 13, 2006, the fifth day of the hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats delayed a committee vote 11 days. On January 24, 2006, the committee voted 10-8, along party lines, to move Alito's nomination forward to a vote by the full Senate.

Confirmation and oath of office

Alito was confirmed on January 31, 2006, on a Senate vote of 58-42. Shortly after the vote, Alito was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts.[22][23]

Third Circuit Court of Appeals

Alito was nominated by President George H.W. Bush to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on February 20, 1990. He filled the vacancy created by John Gibbons, who passed away on January 15, 1990. Alito was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on April 27, 1990, and received commission on April 30, 1990. Alito served on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals until his confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States. Alito's vacancy on the Third Circuit was filled by Joseph Greenaway.[1]

Third Circuit notable cases

Awards and associations


  • 2003: Selected for membership in the American Law Institute
  • 2003: Honorary membership, Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity International
  • 2001: Family Research Council Golden Gavel Award for Saxe v. State College Area School District., 240 F.3d 200 (3rd Cir. 2001)
  • 1999: N.J. Law Journal Award for commitment to the bench, bar and people of the Third Circuit
  • 1999: Peter J. Rodino Award
  • 1995: St. Thomas More Award, given by the St. Thomas More Association of Seton Hall University and Law School
  • 1991: Selected for membership in the American Bar Foundation
  • 1978-1985: Department of Justice Awards[27]


  • 2003-Present: Knollwood Tennis Club
  • 2002-Present: National Italian American Foundation
  • 1999-2000: Seton Hall Law School Self Study Committee
  • 1998-2003: Princeton Schools Committee of Essex County
  • 1989-1994: Princeton Alumni Council Careers Committee
  • 1993-1994: Committee Member
  • 1991-1993: Chair of the Careers Committee
  • 1989-1991: Committee Member
  • 1987-Present: Yale Law School Alumni Association of New Jersey
  • 1987-Present: Princeton Alumni Association of Essex County, New Jersey
  • 1983-1987: Princeton Club of Washington, D.C.[27]


Alito is a baseball fan; he threw out the first pitch at games for both the Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers.[28]

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms "Samuel Alito Supreme Court 2015."

Some of the stories below may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of Google's news search engine.

Samuel Alito - Google News Feed

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See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Federal Judicial Center, "Alito, Samuel A. Jr." from the Federal Judicial Center, accessed January 21, 2014
  2. CNN, "Alito's record shows conservative judge," October 31, 2005
  3. PBS, "Supreme Court nominee Alito's judicial views," December 28, 2005
  4. Washington Post, "Comparisons to Scalia, but also to Roberts," November 1, 2005
  5. 5.0 5.1, "Conference on the Boundaries of Privacy in American Society," Page 3, January 4, 1972
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. PBS, "Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr.," accessed January 3, 2014
  8. Selective Service System, "RESULTS FROM LOTTERY DRAWING - Vietnam Era 1970," accessed January 3, 2014
  9. Washington Post, "Alito joined ROTC while at Princeton," November 3, 2005
  10. Cornell University, "WRITINGS BY JUSTICE ALITO," accessed January 21, 2014
  11. 11.0 11.1 Bloomberg Law, "Snyder v. Phelps, 131 S. Ct. 1207, 179 L. Ed. 2d 172, 2011 ILRC 1405, 39 Med. L. Rptr. 1353 (2011)," accessed January 22, 2014
  12. Supreme Court of the United States, "ALBERT SNYDER, PETITIONER v. FRED W. PHELPS, Sr., et al.," March 2, 2011
  13. Huffington Post, "Samuel Alito rolls eyes while Ruth Bader Ginsburg reads dissent," June 24, 2013
  14. ABA Journal, “Did Alito roll his eyes during Ginsburg dissent?” June 26, 2013
  15. 15.0 15.1 Politico, "Justice Alito mouths 'not true'," January 27, 2010
  17., "Day one: Alito stresses rule of law," January 9, 2006
  18., "Day two: Alito on abortion, presidential power," January 10, 2006
  19. University of Texas, "Alito," accessed January 21, 2014
  20., "Day three: Alito pressed on abortion, evasiveness," January 11, 2006
  21., "Alito day four: party line perspectives," January 12, 2006
  22. New York Times, "Alito sworn in as justice after senate gives approval," February 1, 2006
  23. Supreme Court of the United States, "Oaths of office taken by the current court," accessed September 3, 2013
  24. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, "DAVID WARREN SAXE v. STATE COLLEGE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; CONSTANCE MARTIN," accessed January 22, 2014
  25., "PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA, et al. v. ROBERT P. CASEY, et al.," accessed January 22, 2014
  26. Cornell University, "PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA V. CASEY," accessed January 22, 2014
  27. 27.0 27.1 Senate Judiciary Committee, "Nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States - Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr.," accessed January 3, 2014
  28. Yahoo Sports, "Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito might have a Phillies jersey under judge's robes," June 20, 2013
Political offices
Preceded by:
Sandra Day O'Connor
Supreme Court
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
John Gibbons (Third Circuit)
Third Circuit Court of Appeals
Succeeded by:
Joseph Greenaway