Biography of Samuel Alito, Conservative Supreme Court Justice

Justice Samuel Alito

 Chip Somodevilla / Staff / Getty Images News / Getty Images

Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. (born on April 1, 1950) is a Supreme Court justice who has served on the court since January 31, 2006. He is known for being one of the most conservative justices in modern history. His nickname is Scalito because his political views and judgments are similar to that of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Early Life and Education

Samuel Alito Jr. was born to Samuel Alito Sr.

and Rose (Fradusco) Alito on April 1, 1950 in Trenton, New Jersey. His father was an Italian immigrant and his mother was Italian-American. Both of them worked as schoolteachers.

As a child, Samuel Alito Jr. grew up in the suburbs and attended a public school. He participated in a wide range of clubs and was the valedictorian of his senior class. After high school, he attended Princeton University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in history and political science. Alito then enrolled in Yale Law School and graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1975.

Early Career

Alito had dreams of sitting on the Supreme Court when he was still at Princeton, but it would be quite a few years before he achieved that goal. Between 1976 and 1977, Alito worked as a law clerk for Leonard I. Garth, a Nixon-appointed judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

In 1977, Alito took a job as the Assistant US Attorney for the District of New Jersey, and in 1981, he began serving as the Assistant to the US Solicitor General.

Alito held this job until 1985, when he became Deputy Assistant to the US Attorney General. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan appointed Alito as the US Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

Alito continued to climb the ranks in the courts. In 1990, he was nominated to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Newark, New Jersey by President George H.W. Bush.

A few months after the nomination, the Senate unanimously confirmed Alito with a voice vote. He would serve as a judge on this court for 16 years. During that time, he had a record of issuing conservative opinions. For example, he was of the opinion that women should be required to notify their husbands about planned abortions and was the only dissenting voice in a 3rd Circuit ruling that struck down a Pennsylvania law, known as the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act of 1982.

Supreme Court Nomination

Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the US Supreme Court, retired in 2006. She was a conservative, Reagan-nominated Justice. Although she sided with the other conservative justices in most cases, she wasn't always predictable in her decisions and was commonly viewed as the swing vote.

When O'Connor announced her retirement, Republicans hoped for a more conservative replacement. President George W. Bush originally nominated John Roberts for the seat, but withdrew the nomination. Harriet Miers was President Bush's second nomination, but she withdrew when it became evident that there was widespread opposition to her nomination.

President Bush nominated Samuel Alito for O'Connor's seat on October 31, 2005.

The American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary gave Alito a well-qualified rating, which is the highest rating that can be received. Many conservatives and pro-life advocates applauded the nomination, but not everyone supported Alito. Democrats expressed concern that he was a hard right conservative, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) formally opposed the nomination.

The Senate eventually confirmed Alito's nomination in a 58-42 vote. Alito was sworn in as an associate justice to the US Supreme Court on January 31, 2006.

Legacy

During his tenure as a Supreme Court justice, Alito has proven to be a reliable conservative vote. He has used his interpretation of the law and his political ideologies to shift the law to the right in several areas, including women's reproductive rights and religious liberty.

Some of the biggest cases he has worked on during his Supreme Court tenure include Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Morse v. Frederick, and Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Inc.

Each year, the Supreme Court takes on blockbuster cases related to some of the most divisive issues in the country. This means that Justice Samuel Alito has plenty of opportunities to add to his legacy and leave his ideological mark.

Samuel Alito Fast Facts

  • Full Name: Samuel Anthony Alito Jr.
  • Nickname: Scalito
  • Occupation: Supreme Court justice
  • Born: April 1, 1950 in Trenton, New Jersey, United States
  • Parents’ Names: Samuel Alito and Rose (Fradusco) Alito
  • Education: Princeton University, AB, 1972; Yale University, JD, 1975
  • Key Accomplishments:  Received the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) Special Achievement Award for Public Service
  • Spouse Name: Martha-Ann (Bomgardner) Alito 
  • Children's Names: Philip and Laura
  • Offbeat Fact: Alito is a longtime fan of the Philadelphia Phillies.

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