|Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court|
From: January 31, 2006-present
|Nominator||George W. Bush|
|Predecessor||Sandra Day O'Connor|
|Successor||Incumbent (no successor)|
Samuel Alito is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (2006-). He was appointed by George W. Bush to fill the seat vacated by Sandra Day O'Connor after Harriet Miers was forced to withdraw her nomination.
Though one of the more conservative members of the Court, Justice Alito opened the floodgates to sports gambling by writing the decision for the Court in Murphy v. NCAA, 138 S. Ct. 1461 (2018), based on an arcane legal principle that he had long championed. A former prosecutor himself, Alito also usually sides with prosecutors in criminal appeals even when most of the justices reverse a conviction.
In his first 17 months on the Court, Justice Alito wrote three major opinions for the Court:
- A 5-4 pro-business decision limiting employment claims for sex discrimination
- A 5-4 decision against environmentalists, Nat'l Ass'n of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife
- A plurality opinion joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts upholding faith-based programs in Hein v. Freedom from Religion Found., Inc., 127 S. Ct. 2553 (2007). Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas concurred with a stronger opinion.
Justice Alito was the author of the two biggest decisions in the 2013-2014 Term, both of which were conservative and were rendered on the last day of the Term (June 30). He then emerged as perhaps the most consistent conservative leader on the Court.
Justice Alito was particularly adept at attracting support for his opinions by Justice Anthony Kennedy, which is something other conservative Justices have failed to do. For example, even though Justice Anthony Kennedy voted with the liberal wing on the global warming case during the 2006-1007 Term, Justice Alito held his vote for the 5-4 decision against the environmentalists cited above. Justice Alito's strong concurrence in DA's Office for the Third Judicial Dist. v. Osborne also attracted support by Justice Kennedy, who was the only other Justice to join it in its entirety.
Justice Alito wrote a pivotal concurrence in the 5-4 school speech decision popularly known as "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS," which was on the student banner at issue. Morse v. Frederick, 127 S. Ct. 2618 (2007). Justice Anthony Kennedy joined Justice Alito's concurrence.
Justice Alito joined the opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts in the campaign finance case, FEC v. Wis. Right to Life, Inc., 127 S. Ct. 2652 (2007), but added a stronger concurrence in favor of political free speech.
In addition, Justice Alito showed a willingness to stand up to everyone else by criticizing an 8-Justice opinion in Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. v. White, 126 S. Ct. 2405 (2007).
Justice Alito may be less of an advocate for states' rights than the other conservative Justices. Unlike Justice Scalia, Justice Alito joined a decision in favor of a federal law that conflicted with state regulations in Watters v. Wachovia Bank. Justice Alito also disagreed with all other conservative Justices in dissenting from a finding against federal jurisdiction and in favor of state jurisdiction in Empire HealthChoice Assur. v. McVeigh.
Opinions as a Circuit Judge
Justice Alito's opinions as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit have acquired greater significance nationwide, and are being cited by other Circuits now that Justice Alito is on the U.S. Supreme Court. These decisions include:
- Justice Alito's first opinion for the Court, which was unanimous, was in Holmes v. South Carolina, 547 U.S. 319 (2006) (argued on Feb. 22, 2006; decided on May 1, 2006).