- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2005

Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s legal career began with advisory roles in the Reagan administration and continued with him prosecuting high-profile federal criminal cases.

He was appointed to the federal appeals bench in 1990 by President George Bush.

Judge Alito, who has degrees from Princeton and Yale, secured a position in Washington’s elite conservative legal circles during the early 1980s. But it’s his paper trail as a U.S. attorney in New Jersey, then as a federal judge in Philadelphia, that will be the center of scrutiny in the coming weeks.

Democrats most likely will focus on Judge Alito’s role as the lone dissenter in a key 1991 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case that later led to a Supreme Court reaffirmation of abortion as a constitutional right.

Judge Alito’s long-standing connections to high-level conservative legal circles — growing out of his work in the Justice Department during the early 1980s — helped put him atop the list of potential nominees to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Former colleagues hail him as among the finest legal minds of his generation and compare him to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., whose education and legal accomplishments impressed lawmakers over the summer during his confirmation.

“Sam Alito is every bit John Roberts’ equal, and John Roberts doesn’t have more than half a dozen equals,” said Charles Cooper, a leading Supreme Court lawyer who worked with both men in the Justice Department under President Reagan.

The son of Italian immigrants, Judge Alito was born in Trenton, N.J., on April 1, 1950. Longtime friends said both of his parents were public school teachers and that he rose to the challenge as a first-generation American, being accepted to Princeton University in 1968.

He earned a law degree from Yale in 1975 and, fresh from law school, worked as a clerk for Judge Leonard I. Garth on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

After a brief stint as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, Judge Alito’s legal career blossomed when he moved to Washington in 1981 to work as an assistant to then-Solicitor General Rex E. Lee, a job in which he argued 12 cases on behalf of the government before the Supreme Court.

In 1985, he went to work for Mr. Cooper, whom Mr. Reagan had nominated to head the Office of Legal Counsel under Attorney General Edwin I. Meese III.

“It was a result of how impressed I was with him, both in his personal and professional qualities, that I asked him to become my deputy when President Reagan nominated me,” Mr. Cooper said.

Judge Alito returned to New Jersey to serve as U.S. attorney from 1987 to 1990, winning a key international terrorism case in 1988. In that case, Japanese Red Army member Yu Kikumura, who was suspected of planning to bomb a New York City Navy recruiting center, was convicted of transporting homemade bombs on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Appointed to the federal appeals bench in 1990, Judge Alito won a reputation of consistently delivering conservative votes on such hot-button issues as abortion.

The press gave him the nickname “Scalito,” suggesting similarities between his legal philosophy and that of the Supreme Court’s perhaps most conservative member, Justice Antonin Scalia.

Among the high-profile cases he’s been involved in are a 1996 sex-discrimination case, in which he wrote that a plaintiff should not be able to win a summary judgment prior to a verdict simply by casting doubt on an employer’s version of the story.

Another was a 1999 case in which he joined the majority to allow Muslim police officers in the city to keep their beards for religious reasons.

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