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Samuel Alito
Official portrait of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito
Official portrait, 2007
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Assumed office
January 31, 2006
Appointed by George W. Bush
Preceded by Sandra Day O'Connor
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
In office
April 30, 1990 – January 31, 2006
Appointed by George H. W. Bush
Preceded by John Joseph Gibbons
Succeeded by Joseph A. Greenaway Jr.
United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey
In office
December 10, 1987 – April 30, 1990
Nominated by Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Thomas Greelish
Succeeded by Michael Chertoff
Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel
In office
President Ronald Reagan
Personal details
Samuel Anthony Alito Jr.

(1950-04-01) April 1, 1950 (age 74)
Trenton, New Jersey, U.S.
Martha-Ann Bomgardner
(m. 1985)
Children 2
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service  United States Army
Years of service 1972–1980
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Captain
Unit Signal Corps (Reserve)

Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. OMRI (/əˈlt/ ə-LEE-toh; born April 1, 1950) is an American jurist who serves as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was nominated to the high court by President George W. Bush on October 31, 2005, and has served on it since January 31, 2006. After Antonin Scalia, Alito is the second Italian American justice to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alito was raised in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, and was educated at Princeton University and Yale Law School. After graduating from law school, he worked as an assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel and served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. In 1990, Alito was appointed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where he served until joining the Supreme Court. He has called himself a "practical originalist" and has been described as one of the Court's "most conservative justices".

Alito has written majority opinions in the landmark cases McDonald v. Chicago (2010), Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014), Janus v. AFSCME (2018), and Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (2022).

Early life and education

Alito was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He was the son of Samuel A. Alito Sr., an Italian immigrant from Roccella Ionica, Calabria, and Rose Fradusco, an Italian-American whose parents came from Palazzo San Gervasio in Basilicata. Alito's father earned a master's degree at Rutgers University and was a high school teacher and later the first director of the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, a state government position he held from 1952 to 1984. Alito's mother was a schoolteacher. Both are deceased.

Alito grew up in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, a suburb of Trenton. He attended Steinert High School, where he graduated in 1968 as the class valedictorian, subsequently matriculating at Princeton University. In 1972, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude, from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. His senior thesis, supervised by political scientist Walter F. Murphy, was entitled "An Introduction to the Italian Constitutional Court".

At Princeton, Alito chaired a student conference in 1971 called "The Boundaries of Privacy in American Society", which supported curbs on domestic intelligence gathering and anticipated the need for a statute and a court to oversee national security surveillance. ..... Alito also led the American Whig-Cliosophic Society's Debate Panel during his time at Princeton. He avoided Princeton's eating clubs, joining Stevenson Hall instead.

In December 1969, while a sophomore at Princeton, Alito received a low lottery number of 32 in the Selective Service drawing. He became a member of the school's Army ROTC program. Alito was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve in 1972. He began his military duty after graduating from law school in 1975 and served on active duty from September to December while attending the Signal Officer Basic Course at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Alito was promoted to first lieutenant and captain, and completed his service obligation as a member of the inactive reserve before being honorably discharged in 1980.

At Princeton, Alito was "almost alone" in his familiarity with the writings of John Marshall Harlan II and was much influenced by the course on constitutional interpretation taught by Walter F. Murphy, also his faculty adviser. During his 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. Graduating in 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 Court".

Alito then attended Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and earned a Juris Doctor in 1975.

Early legal career

After graduating from law school, Alito clerked for Third Circuit appeals judge Leonard I. Garth in Newark, New Jersey, in 1976 and 1977. He interviewed with Supreme Court Justice Byron White for a clerkship but was not hired. Between 1977 and 1981, Alito was Assistant United States Attorney, District of New Jersey. There, he served under the then-chief of the appeals division Assistant U.S. Attorney, Maryanne Trump Barry (Barry later became a federal judge). .....

From 1981 to 1985, Alito was Assistant to U.S. Solicitor General Rex E. Lee. In that capacity he argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court for the federal government. ..... Alito lost only two of the cases he argued before the Supreme Court.

From 1985 to 1987, Alito was Deputy Assistant Attorney General under Charles J. Cooper in the Office of Legal Counsel during the tenure of Attorney General Edwin Meese. John F. Manning worked under Alito there. Between 1986 and 1987, Alito authored nearly 470 pages of memoranda, in which he argued for expanding his client's law enforcement and personnel authorities. In his 1985 application for Deputy Assistant 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.

From 1987 to 1990, Alito was the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey. When he arrived, the office had begun the prosecution of 20 defendants accused of being mob affiliates of Anthony Accetturo. In August 1988, the two-year trial, then the longest federal criminal trial in history, ended in the acquittal of all 20 after less than two days of jury deliberations. Alito soon hired Michael Chertoff as his chief deputy.

After an FBI agent was shot in the line of duty in 1988, Alito personally handled the trial, assigning himself the then-novice Stuart Rabner as an assistant, and securing the shooter's conviction. In March 1988, Alito sought a rehearing of extradition proceedings against two Indian men, represented by Ron Kuby, who were accused of being terrorist assassins, after Alito discovered that the death threats his prosecutor had received had been sent to her by herself. The prosecutor was later found not guilty of obstruction of justice by reason of insanity, after psychiatrists found she may have suffered from schizophrenia, with up to four distinct personalities. In 1989, Alito prosecuted a member of the Japanese Red Army for planning a terrorist bombing in Manhattan.

Alito is a member of the Federalist Society, a group of conservative and libertarian lawyers and legal students interested in conservative legal theory.

Court of Appeals judge

Nomination and confirmation

Third Circuit Judges Leonard I. Garth, for whom Alito clerked, and Maryanne Trump Barry, under whom Alito worked as an assistant U.S. Attorney, recommended Alito's judicial nomination to President George H. W. Bush. On February 20, 1990, Bush nominated Alito to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, to a seat vacated by John Joseph Gibbons. The American Bar Association rated Alito "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 Jersey.

U.S. Supreme Court

Nomination and confirmation

With President George W. Bush Looking on, Judge Samuel A. Alito Acknowledges his Nomination as Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court
With President George W. Bush looking on, 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, but when Chief Justice William Rehnquist died on September 3, Bush withdrew Roberts's nomination to fill O'Connor's seat and instead nominated Roberts to the Chief Justiceship. On October 3, Bush nominated Harriet Miers to replace O'Connor. Miers withdrew her acceptance of the nomination on October 27 after encountering widespread opposition.

On October 31, Bush announced that he was nominating Alito to O'Connor's seat, and he submitted the nomination to the Senate on November 10. 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". Leonard Leo was selected to play a role in shepherding Alito's appointment through the Senate.

Alito's confirmation hearing was held from January 9 to 13, 2006. Two active-duty members of the Third Circuit, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry and Chief Judge Anthony J. Scirica, testified in Alito's confirmation hearing, as did five senior and retired circuit judges. Alito responded to some 700 questions over 18 hours of testimony. He rejected the use of foreign legal materials in the Constitution, did not state a position on cameras in courtrooms (he had supported them while on the 3rd Circuit), said Congress could choose to outlaw LGBT employment discrimination in the United States if it wished, and told then-Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) that he endorsed a weak version of the unitary executive theory.

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 Clarence Thomas or Robert Bork. Alito professed reluctance to commit to any type of ideology, stating he would act as an impartial referee. .....

Democrats on the committee asked Alito about his past association with the conservative group Concerned Alumni of Princeton. Alito said 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." But during the confirmation hearings, he 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 Liberties Union (ACLU) formally opposed Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court. The ACLU has only taken this step three other times in its entire history, opposing the nominations of William Rehnquist, Robert Bork, and Brett Kavanaugh. In releasing its report on Alito, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said, "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. Alito's record shows a willingness to support government actions that abridge individual freedoms."

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

Debate on the nomination began in the full Senate on January 25. After a failed filibuster attempt by Senator John Kerry, the Senate confirmed Alito to the Supreme Court on January 31 by a vote of 58–42. All Senate Republicans voted in favor of confirmation except Lincoln Chafee, and all Senate Democrats voted against confirmation except Tim Johnson, Robert Byrd, Kent Conrad, and Ben Nelson. An Independent, Jim Jeffords, voted against confirmation. Alito was sworn in as an associate justice of the Supreme Court later that day. He became the 110th justice, the second Italian-American, the 11th Catholic in the history of the Supreme Court, and the fifth Catholic on the Court at the time he assumed office.

Because Alito joined the Court mid-term, he did not participate in the decisions of most of the early cases in the Court term because he had not heard arguments for them. These decisions were released 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. Only three of these cases – Garcetti v. Ceballos, Hudson v. Michigan, and Kansas v. Marsh – were reargued since a tie needed to be broken.


Alito delivered his first written Supreme Court opinion on May 1, 2006, in Holmes v. South Carolina, a case involving the right of criminal defendants to present evidence that a third party committed the crime. From the beginning of the Rehnquist Court to the nomination of Justice Elena Kagan, each new justice has been given a unanimous opinion to write as their first Supreme Court opinion; this practice is designed to help "break in" new justices so that each justice has at least one unanimous, uncontroversial opinion under their belt. 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 compiled a fairly conservative record. 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 the four other conservative Justices – Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas. He further voted with the conservative wing of the court on Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon and Rapanos v. United States. Alito also dissented in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld alongside Justices Scalia and Thomas.

Alito delivered the Supreme Court Historical Society's 2008 Annual Lecture, "The Origin of the Baseball Antitrust Exemption". The lecture was published in two journals.

In 2013, political scientists Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn called Alito "one of the most conservative justices on the Court". While his voting record is conservative, he does not always join the opinions of the Court's other conservative justices. On February 1, 2006, in Alito's first decision 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. Justices Roberts, Scalia and Thomas were in favor of vacating the stay; Missouri had twice asked the justices to lift the stay and permit the execution. 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 and various other cases of the 2005 term. A fierce critic of reliance on legislative history in statutory interpretation, Scalia 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, one involving the constitutionality of political gerrymandering and one involving 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 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 75%. Alito also differed from Scalia in applying originalism flexibly to arrive at conservative outcomes "with plodding consistency", rather than following it so strictly as to occasionally produce outcomes unfavorable to conservatives.

Swearing-in Ceremony for Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (48374478966)
Alito swearing in Mark Esper as the United States Secretary of Defense in 2019.

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 bloc 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.

Alito joined Thomas in writing a separate dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges. In 2020, Alito wrote a dissent joined by Thomas to Bostock v. Clayton County, arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not prohibit discrimination by sexual orientation or gender identity and criticizing the majority's interpretation of Title VII. In October 2020, Alito agreed with the other justices on the denial of an appeal filed by Kim Davis, a county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

On November 12, 2020, Alito made headlines for comments about the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking to the Federalist Society, Alito criticized what he called the "loss of individual liberties", saying, "We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020" and calling the pandemic "a Constitutional stress test".

Alito has called himself a "practical originalist" and is a member of the Court's conservative bloc. He has been described as one of the Court's "most conservative justices".

According to The New Yorker, since the 2020 appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Alito has become "the embodiment of a conservative majority that is ambitious and extreme", overruling progressive precedents from the 1960s and '70s that were previously out of conservatives' reach.

Free speech jurisprudence

Alito has also dissented from the opinions of the Court's conservative justices on free speech cases, one of which, Snyder v. Phelps, had to do with Westboro Baptist Church members' right to protest a military funeral. Alito offered the sole dissenting opinion, saying protesters "were sued under a very well-established tort that goes back to the 19th century, the intentional infliction of emotional, of severe emotional distress. And I thought that this tort constituted a reasonable exception to the First Amendment, but my colleagues disagreed about that."


Personal life

In 1985, Alito married Martha-Ann Bomgardner, a law librarian who met him during his trips to the library as a law clerk. They have two adult children, Laura and Philip; Martha-Ann left her profession to raise them. Alito resided with his family in West Caldwell, New Jersey, before his Supreme Court nomination. He has since moved to Alexandria, Virginia.

Since Stephen Breyer's retirement in 2022, Alito has been the only military veteran on the Court. He is a baseball fan and a longtime fan of the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillie Phanatic was a special guest at his Supreme Court welcome dinner.

In 2013, as part of the ongoing fallout from the Edward Snowden case, former National Security Agency analyst Russell Tice revealed that, during 2002 and 2003, the National Security Agency targeted Alito's phones, and those of his staff and his family, for surveillance.


As an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark from 1999 to 2004, Alito taught courses in constitutional law and an original course on terrorism and civil liberties. In 1995, he received the school's Saint Thomas More 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 school.

As a visiting professor at Duke University School of Law, Alito taught Current Issues in Constitutional Interpretation in fall 2011 and a course in the Master of Laws in Judicial Studies program in summer 2012.

Ethical questions

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Samuel Alito para niños

  • Judicial restraint
  • List of justices of the Supreme Court of the United States
  • List of law clerks of the Supreme Court of the United States (Seat 8)
  • List of United States Supreme Court justices by time in office
  • Unitary executive theory
  • United States Supreme Court cases during the Roberts Court
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