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What he does recall is that he and Judge Alito took the debate team very seriously.

“We considered ourselves to be a debate team of high integrity,” said Mr. Agress, who as a senior picked the sophomore Judge Alito to be his partner.

“Some of the students played kind of loose with the facts and statistics,” he said. “We never did, and we won most of our debates.”

In 1968, Judge Alito began at Princeton University, where his bookish nature and steadfast approach to course work were a smooth fit among the nation’s academic elite. Although he was the president of Princeton’s Debate Panel his junior year, his boldest accomplishments at the university came in the form of his extracurricular writings.

As a senior, Judge Alito served as chairman of a Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs undergraduate conference, which authored a report titled “The Boundaries of Privacy in American Society.”

The report cited a “great threat to privacy in modern America” and called for the establishment within the federal government of a “three-man Federal Privacy Ombudsman” to hear citizen complaints about “invasions of privacy by agencies of the government not concerned with either the prevention of crime or matters of national security.”

In a section titled “Laws concerning Homosexuality,” the conference argued for a loosening of sodomy laws, writing that “no private sexual act between consenting adults should be forbidden” and that “discrimination against homosexuals in hiring should be forbidden.” The conference said coercive sexual acts, acts involving minors and acts that offend public decency should remain banned.

Citing Supreme Court precedents, the conference said the judiciary should be entrusted with preventing abuses of privacy by federal agencies.

Judge Alito’s senior thesis at Princeton about the Italian Constitutional Court may shed considerably less light on his judicial philosophy at the time, but the exhaustive 137-page document lends key insight into his thinking and his passions as a young man.

If nothing else, the subject matter of the thesis exposes the depth of his interest in his Italian heritage. Judge Alito traveled to Italy on a special scholarship during the summer between his junior and senior years, and his class of 1972 yearbook entry brags that the thesis was “researched in various sidewalk cafes in Rome and Bologna.”

The paper is mainly a history of the Italian Constitutional Court, with the juiciest passages centering on an explanation of cases involving the relationship between church and state.

“The relationship between the Catholic Church and the Italian State has surely been one of the most important issues perhaps the single most important issue in the history of Italy since the Risorgimento,” Judge Alito wrote, referring to the unification of Italy as a single nation during the mid-19th century.

“The Constitutional Court, for example, sits in a baroque palace, the Palazzo della Consulta, which was originally constructed for a cardinal,” the 21-year-old Alito wrote.

Showing a bit more of his humorous side in is 1972 yearbook entry, Judge Alito jokingly noted that he spent his senior year at Princeton as an exclusive Woodrow Wilson scholar “thinking great and ineffable thoughts.”

By the fall of 1972, he had begun to come into his own as a legal-minded scholar. He matriculated to New Haven, Conn., where he had been accepted into Yale Law School.

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