- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2006

It’s not just the body language — it’s the bodies. Wife, children, sister, in-laws, friends. The only one missing is the family dog.

For those riveted to the daylong hearings on the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court, the stylistic contrast with his family at the confirmation hearings to that of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is stark.

While Jane Sullivan Roberts, a prominent lawyer with a penchant for power suits and pearls, sat dutifully behind her husband without a fidget, Judge Alito’s wife, Martha, — in ruffled blouse, blue cardigan, sensible coif and Hour Eyes glasses — scratches her hair, purses her lips, smiles wryly and behaves like a suburban New Jersey housewife sitting in a high school parent-teacher conference, itching to get home.

If Judge Roberts and his family, including 5-year-old daughter Josie in party dress and white gloves, 4-year-old son Jack in saddle shoes and bow tie, represented “Father Knows Best,” the Alitos are “Moonstruck.” Judge Roberts is Chevy Chase; Judge Alito is New Jersey.

This Supreme Court nominee really is a real family man, with all the sticky mess of familial responsibility and calamity. He cooks dinner and coaches Little League.

“It’s not a pose,” says Mark Dwyer, Judge Alito’s roommate at Yale Law School. “He really is a devoted family man.”

Judge Alito is further a rabid Philadelphia Phillies fan — and they’re a rowdy bunch. He likes Bruce Springsteen. One can imagine him padding to the fridge at midnight for leftover manicotti. Or playing one-on-one with son Phil, a University of Virginia student.

“Sam has always been a total disciple of family values,” says Mr. Dwyer, now with the appeals bureau of the New York County District Attorney’s Office.

Still, when his 91-year-old mother, Rose, who still lives in the judge’s boyhood home in Hamilton Township, N.J., recently told reporters that “of course” her Catholic son was against abortion, Judge Alito is said to have told Ma, respectfully, to zip it.

If the Robertses are Wonder Bread, the Alitos are pepperoni pizza, with vacations at the Jersey Shore, and the judge himself a son of Italy of long standing.

“When we were rooming together in law school, I brought in my Irish tricolor flag and hung it on the living room wall,” Mr. Dwyer recalls. The next day, Sam walks in with his green, white and red Italian flag. It was 4-by-6 feet. He tacked it on the other end of the living room.

“Sam is an Italian, from New Jersey, but he’s also an accomplished scholar. It’s not like he’s from ‘The Sopranos.’ ”

At the moment Judge Alito introduced the former Martha Bomgardner to the Senate Judiciary Committee, he squeezed her hand. She is said to have a bubbly personality; he is more soft-spoken.

They look like a real married couple, not some Inside the Beltway Barbie and Ken. No Hermes scarves for Martha. She’s no-nonsense Jersey all the way. For a recent birthday, she gave her husband — who wore Buddy Holly glasses in his Princeton yearbook picture — a trip to the Phillies’ “fantasy baseball” camp.

For a hard-working lawyer, his “big fat Italian family” has always grounded him. He was known to sort through legal briefs watching his daughter Laura’s swimming meets. His sister, Rosemary, is a trial lawyer.

His father, Samuel Sr., immigrated to America as an infant and became a public-school teacher. Every Christmas, young Sam gave his parents the same presents: a can of shaving cream for his father, a bottle of perfume for his mother.

“I think the importance of family is an Italian-American value,” says Thomas Gentile, a former law clerk of Judge Alito’s who is now in private practice in West Orange, N.J. “He’s a perfect role model as an Italian-American.”

Theirs is not an unusual story. The only thing that comes before the law is family, as the Alitos showed Capitol Hill yesterday.

Asked who would play the Judge in “Alito: The Movie,” Mr. Dwyer and Mr. Gentile agreed. It would have to be “Spider-Man’s” Tobey Maguire. Soft-spoken. And with glasses. Of course.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide