Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. joined the U.S. Supreme Court on January 31, 2006, replacing Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Alito was born in New Jersey on April 1, 1950. All four of his grandparents immigrated from Italy, where his father was born. Alito was the valedictorian at his high school and continued that academic success by graduating summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1972. He received his legal education at Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. Alito participated in the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Princeton. After law school, he served on active duty for training for three months and then remained on inactive reserve status until he was discharged as a captain in 1980.

Alito started his legal career by working as a clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 1976-1977. Over the next decade, he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New Jersey, an Assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General, and a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice. Alito became the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey in 1987 and held that position until President George H.W. Bush nominated him to the Third Circuit in February 1990. The Senate unanimously confirmed him in April. Alito would serve on the Third Circuit for more than 15 years, articulating conservative views that foreshadowed some of his opinions on the Supreme Court.

The events leading to Alito’s arrival on the Court took several twists and turns. Republican President George W. Bush initially nominated John Roberts to fill the seat left vacant by the retiring Justice O’Connor. However, Chief Justice William Rehnquist died before Roberts was confirmed to that seat. Bush shifted the nomination of Roberts to Rehnquist’s seat and nominated Harriet Miers for O’Connor’s seat. Miers withdrew her candidacy a few weeks later in response to strong criticism, and Bush nominated Alito to fill the vacancy on November 10, 2005. Alito went through confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2006. The Committee voted 10-8 in his favor on January 24, and the Senate confirmed him by a 58-42 vote on January 31. He was sworn in on the same day.

Alito holds a deeply conservative view of many issues. For instance, he has helped bolster gun rights and religious liberty, while eroding voting rights and dissenting from decisions advancing LGBTQ+ rights. But Alito’s most significant legacy so far involves abortion. His majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization reversed the long-standing precedent established by Roe v. Wade. Alito wrote that “the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion,...and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives.” The impact of this decision was felt immediately and profoundly.

Selected Opinions by Justice Alito:

Groff v. DeJoy (2023)

Topic: Labor & Employment

Title VII requires an employer that denies a religious accommodation to show that the burden of granting an accommodation would result in substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business. The impact on coworkers is relevant only to the extent that it goes on to affect the conduct of the business.

Abitron Austria GmbH v. Hetronic International, Inc. (2023)

Topic: Trademarks

Two provisions of the Lanham Act that prohibit trademark infringement extend only to claims in which the claimed infringing use in commerce is domestic rather than foreign.

Sackett v. EPA (2023)

Topic: Climate Change & Environment

The Clean Water Act extends to only those wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are waters of the United States in their own right, so that they are indistinguishable from those waters.

Vega v. Tekoh (2022)

Topic: Miranda Rights

A violation of the Miranda rules does not provide a basis for a Section 1983 claim against a police officer who improperly obtained a statement.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization (2022)

Topic: Due Process; Abortion & Reproductive Rights

The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and Casey are overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.

Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (2021)

Topic: Voting & Elections

To the extent that minority and non-minority groups differ with respect to employment, wealth, and education, even neutral regulations may result in some predictable disparities in rates of voting and non-compliance with voting rules. But the mere fact that there is some disparity in impact does not necessarily mean that a system is not equally open or that it does not give everyone an equal opportunity to vote.

Collins v. Yellen (2021)

Topic: Separation of Powers; Government Agencies

The Constitution prohibits even modest restrictions on the President's power to remove the head of an agency with a single top officer.

Babb v. Wilkie (2020)

Topic: Labor & Employment

The federal-sector provision of the ADEA demands that personnel actions be untainted by any consideration of age.

American Legion v. American Humanist Ass'n (2019)

Topic: Religion

When time's passage imbues a religiously expressive monument, symbol, or practice with familiarity and historical significance, removing it may no longer appear neutral, especially to the local community. The passage of time thus gives rise to a strong presumption of constitutionality.

Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Ass'n v. Thomas (2019)

Topic: Powers of Congress

A two-year durational residency requirement applicable to retail liquor store license applicants violated the Commerce Clause.

Abbott v. Perez (2018)

Topic: Voting & Elections

In redistricting cases, the good faith of the state legislature must be presumed.

Jennings v. Rodriguez (2018)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

Detained foreign nationals do not have a right to periodic bond hearings during the course of their detention.

Janus v. AFSCME (2018)

Topic: Labor & Employment; Free Speech

The state's extraction of agency fees from non-consenting public-sector employees violates the First Amendment.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California (2017)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

When there is no connection between the forum and the underlying controversy, specific jurisdiction is lacking regardless of the extent of a defendant's unconnected activities in the state.

Matal v. Tam (2017)

Topic: Trademarks

The disparagement provision of the Lanham Act, prohibiting the registration of trademarks that may disparage or bring into contempt or disrepute any persons living or dead, violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins (2016)

Topic: Role of Courts

Article III standing requires a concrete injury even in the context of a statutory violation. This does not mean, however, that the risk of real harm cannot satisfy the requirement of concreteness.

Glossip v. Gross (2015)

Topic: Death Penalty & Criminal Sentencing

To succeed in an Eighth Amendment method of execution claim, a prisoner must establish that the method creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain and that the risk is substantial when compared to the known and available alternatives.

Ohio v. Clark (2015)

Topic: Criminal Trials & Prosecutions

The Confrontation Clause does not necessarily bar the introduction of all out-of-court statements that support the prosecution's case. Instead, a court asks whether a statement was given with the primary purpose of creating an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony.

Comptroller of Treasury of Maryland v. Wynne (2015)

Topic: Taxes; Powers of Congress

A state income tax scheme violated the dormant Commerce Clause when it taxed income that residents earned inside and outside the state but did not provide residents with a full credit against income taxes paid to other states.

Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A. (2011)

Topic: Patents

Induced infringement of a patent requires knowledge that the induced acts constitute patent infringement. Deliberate indifference to a known risk that a patent exists does not satisfy the knowledge required.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (2014)

Topic: Religion; Health Care

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) permits a closely held for-profit corporation to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, based on the religious objections of the corporation's owners. More generally, protecting the free exercise rights of closely held corporations protects the religious liberty of the people who own and control them.

Fernandez v. California (2014)

Topic: Search & Seizure

The holding in Randolph is limited to situations in which the objecting occupant is physically present.

Atlantic Marine Construction Co. v. U.S. District Court for Western District of Texas (2013)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

A forum selection clause may be enforced by a motion to transfer under Section 1404(a). When a defendant files such a motion, a district court should transfer the case unless extraordinary circumstances unrelated to the convenience of the parties clearly disfavor a transfer.

Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District (2013)

Topic: Property Rights & Land Use

The government's demand for property from a land-use permit applicant must satisfy the Nollan and Dolan requirements even when the demand is for money.

Mutual Pharmaceutical Co. v. Bartlett (2013)

Topic: Health Care

Design defect claims based on generic drugs are preempted by federal law.

Vance v. Ball State University (2013)

Topic: Labor & Employment

An employee is a supervisor for the purposes of vicarious liability under Title VII only if they are empowered by the employer to take tangible employment actions against the victim.

Clapper v. Amnesty Int'l USA (2013)

Topic: Immigration & National Security

The Court has often found a lack of standing in cases in which the judiciary has been requested to review actions of the political branches in the fields of intelligence gathering and foreign affairs.

Williams v. Illinois (2012)

Topic: Criminal Trials & Prosecutions

Out-of-court statements that are related by an expert solely for the purpose of explaining the assumptions on which that opinion rests are not offered for their truth and thus fall outside the scope of the Confrontation Clause.

Howes v. Fields (2012)

Topic: Miranda Rights

Imprisonment alone is not enough to create a custodial situation within the meaning of Miranda.

Davis v. U.S. (2011)

Topic: Search & Seizure

Searches conducted in objectively reasonable reliance on binding appellate precedent are not subject to the exclusionary rule.

Kentucky v. King (2011)

Topic: Search & Seizure

The exigent circumstances rule applies when the police do not create the exigency by engaging or threatening to engage in conduct that violates the Fourth Amendment.

McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010)

Topic: Gun Rights

The Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense. (In other words, the right is protected from state as well as federal interference.)

Pleasant Grove City v. Summum (2009)

Topic: Free Speech

The placement of a permanent monument in a public park is a form of government speech and is therefore not subject to scrutiny under the Free Speech Clause.

Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. (2007)

Topic: Role of Courts

Generally, a federal taxpayer's interest in seeing that Treasury funds are spent in accordance with the Constitution is too attenuated to give rise to the kind of redressable “personal injury” required for Article III standing.