NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr., 55, embraced a reclusive lifestyle at Yale Law School during the early 1970s. For fun, recalls Mark Dwyer, who roomed with Judge Alito for three years at Yale, “Sam would go back to the room and study.”
Judge Alito, a Catholic, arrived at law school during tumultuous times on the heels of widespread student protests against the Vietnam War and soon after the controversial murder trial in New Haven of Black Panther party chairman Robert G. “Bobby” Seale.
But his focus was turned inward — to the Ivy League world of wood-paneled classrooms and intense study at one of the nation’s most prestigious law schools.
“Sam never went to crazy parties,” Mr. Dwyer said. “At the end of the day, he would occasionally pull out his bottle of scotch and pour a glass … to wind down before going to bed.
“He was hard-core. He definitely wanted to get everything he could from law school.”
The two had matriculated to Yale together along with five other graduates from the Princeton University class of 1972. For Judge Alito, the challenge wasn’t making top grades. It was how best to use Yale to prepare for a career that would bring him to the highest rungs of power in the conservative legal world and later see him shine as a federal prosecutor and judge.
Still, outside of a handful of awards and the rare honor of having an article he’d written published in the Yale Law Review, former classmates and professors recall him as quiet and ordinary.
“You would not have picked Sam out of a crowd and said, ‘Gee, that kid’s going places,’ ” said Yale law professor Lee Albert, for whom Judge Alito served as a research assistant.
“I don’t mean ordinary in the way he performed,” Mr. Albert said. “Hillary Clinton was at Yale almost at the same time. She just sort of stood out in a crowded room, not because she was beautiful, but as the kind of bubbling, effervescent kind of personality, where Sam was quiet.”
Mr. Dwyer said Judge Alito “wasn’t pleased” in his first year when he was placed in the constitutional-law section taught by Charles A. Reich, who two years earlier had written the hippie bible, “The Greening of America.” He had hoped to be placed in the section taught by Robert H. Bork, whose aggressively conservative views would later become the center of controversy during his failed Supreme Court nomination in 1987.
“He wanted Bork, not because he was an outspoken conservative,” Mr. Dwyer said. “It wasn’t that he was left or right, it was whether he was a good professor or a bad professor, and Sam thought that he was going to be a good professor.”
On the fast track
Upon his graduation from law school, Judge Alito’s career swiftly accelerated. He was selected for a yearlong clerkship with Judge Leonard A. Garth, a Nixon-appointed member of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
In 1977, he was hired as an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey, serving for four years, during which time he met his future wife, Martha, a librarian in the office. Although the two later moved to Washington and became close, any relationship they had was kept low-key.View Entire Story
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