FindLaw Newsmaker Profiles - Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Nominee
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Name: Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
Occupation: Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
Born: Trenton, New Jersey, 1950
Education: Princeton University, A.B., 1972
Yale Law School, J.D., 1975
Family: Married, two children.
Professional Career:
  • Law clerk, Hon. Leonard I. Garth, U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, 1976-1977
  • Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of New Jersey, 1977-1981
  • Assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, 1981-1985
  • Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, 1985-1987
  • U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, 1987-1990
  •  
    High-Profile Cases With Majority Opinions and Dissents by Alito
    The charts below contain a selection of the high-profile cases with written opinions by Judge Alito since his 1991 appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by former President George H. Bush, including abortion, First Amendment, criminal, immigration,, civil rights, employment and education cases .
    ABORTION CASES
    Judge Alito has written judicial opinions that both support women’s reproductive rights, and opinions that some political conservatives and abortion opponents show that Judge Alito might support their beliefs.
    Case Summary of Facts Case Type Result
    Planned Parenthood of
    S.E. Pa. v. Casey

    (3d Circuit 1991)
    Alito’s dissenting opinion is often cited by opponents of abortion. In it, he concluded that “Pennsylvania has a legitimate interest in furthering the husband's interest in the fate of the fetus,’ under the state’s abortion notification law. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently ruled in the case, and disagreed with Alito. Abortion, Healthcare, Constitutional Law Majority finds Pa.’s abortion notification law for husband's unconstitional.
    Planned Parenthood of Central
    N.J. v. Farmer

    (3d Circuit 2000)
    In his concurrence, Alito cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Stenberg v. Carhart in support of upholding a lower court’s decision to permanently enjoin (i.e., prevent) enforcement of New Jersey's Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 1997 Abortion, Healthcare, Constitutional Law 1997 N.J. “Partial-Birth” Abortion Ban Act is held unconstitutional
    Xiu Ling Zhang v. Gonzales
    (3d Circuit 2005)
    Writing the Court’s opinion, Alito highlighted the Board of Immigration Appeals (‘BIA’) error by failing to “[explain why the [alleged birth-control documents] that she submitted did not bolster her credibility...If authentic and accurate, they powerfully corroborate [her] claims.” Abortion, Immigration, Healthcare, Constitutional Law BIA judge’s order denying asylum and withholding of removal is vacated, and case remanded
    Cai Luan Chen v. Ashcroft
    (3d Circuit 2004)
    Alito concludes that the BIA’s decision to deny asylum applications to unmarried partners of persons who suffered forced abortions or involuntary sterilizations was “rational.” Abortion, Immigration, Constitutional Law BIA judge’s order denying asylum and withholding of removal is affirmed
    Gui Cun Liu v. Ashcroft
    (3d Circuit 2004)
    Alito holds that it was “legal error for the I[mmigration] J[udge] to reject the abortion certificates” solely on the ground that they were not authenticated under 8 C.F.R. § 287.6. Petitioner and her husband argued that she was forced two times by the Chinese government to have abortions, and that they faced government persecution because they are Christians. Abortion, Immigration, Constitutional Law Court vacates the BIA’s order denying asylum and withholding removal, and remands the case back to the BIA
    Shelton v. Univ. of Medicine
    and Dentistry

    (3d Circuit 2000)
    Employee’s decision to refuse her employer’s efforts to accommodate her religious beliefs and practices opposing abortion was unjustified, warranting her termination. Alito joined the majority opinion. Abortion, Employment Law, Constitutional Law, First Amendment Law Court upholds employee’s termination, rejecting First Amendment claims.
    Cai Fung Wong v. Ashcroft
    (3d Circuit 2003)
    Alito wrote the majority opinion in upholding the denial of an immigrant’s political asylum application. The applicant cited fear that the Chinese government was requiring that she be sterilized after she had two children. Alito cited her failure to mention in her asylum application that she had already been sterilized as one of a number of factors supporting the Board of Immigration Appeal’s ('BIA') denial of her application. Abortion, Immigration Petitioner deported; BIA decision affirmed
    FIRST AMENDMENT CASES
    Case Summary of Facts Case Type Result
    Saxe v. State Coll. Area Sch. Dist.
    (3d Circuit 2001)
    Judge Alito wrote the Court’s majority opinion, holding that a state college's “anti-harassment policy” violated the First Amendment where the policy prohibits a substantial amount of speech that would not constitute actionable harassment under either federal or state law. Education, First Amendment, Constitutional Law College’s policy is held unconstitutional
    Abdul-Aziz v. City of Newark
    (3d Circuit 1999)
    Writing for the Court, Judge Alito concludes that a police department’s policy requiring officers to shave their beards, without providing an exemption for religious reasons, violated the First Amendment rights of two Sunni Muslim officers. Employee Rights, First Amendment, Discrimination, Constitutional Law Verdict for
    Plaintiffs
    Shelton v. Univ. of Medicine and Dentistry
    (3d Circuit 2000)
    Employee’s decision to refuse her employer’s efforts to accommodate her religious beliefs and practices opposing abortion was unjustified, warranting her termination. Alito joined the majority opinion. First Amendment Law, Employment Law, Abortion, Constitutional Law, Court upholds employee’s termination, rejecting First Amendment claims.
    CRIMINAL LAW CASES
    Case Summary of Facts Case Type Result
    Rompilla v. Horn
    (3d Circuit 2004)
    Judge Alito wrote the Court’s majority opinion in this capital case, concluding that the district court improperly vacated defendant's death sentence on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. While the defendant argued that his attorneys should “take all the steps that might have been pursued by the most resourceful defense attorneys with bountiful investigative support.” Alito concluded, however, that “while we may hope for the day when every criminal defendant receives that level of representation, that is more than the Sixth Amendment demands.” Constitutional, Criminal Law Death sentence affirmed, ineffective assistance of counsel claim rejected
    Chadwick v. Janecka
    (3d Circuit 2002)
    Alito rules that plaintiff’s continued criminal detention was warranted, even after seven years, based upon his ongoing failure to pay a $2.5 million divorce judgment. Since he was jailed for civil contempt, Alito held, and “state courts have repeatedly found that Mr. Chadwick has the present ability to” pay the judgment, “there is no federal constitutional bar to Mr. Chadwick’s indefinite confinement for civil contempt so long as he retains the ability to comply with the order requiring him to pay over the money at issue. Divorce, Family Law, Criminal Law Civil
    contempt upheld
    U.S. v. Sherman
    (3d Circuit 1998)
    In a unanimous decision, Alito joined two other judges overturned a lower court ruling dismissing a five-count indictment against an obstetrician/gynecologist for perjuring himself under oath as an expert in a medical malpractice trial. The doctor was not entitled to assert a recantation defense when it was “too late to allow him to rely upon it to defend himself from prosecution under the general perjury statute.” Criminal, Healthcare, Malpractice Court reinstates a doctor’s perjury ndictment.
    CIVIL RIGHTS CASES
    Case Summary of Facts Case Type Result
    Doe v. Groody
    (3d Circuit 2004)
    The court's majority opinion written by former Judge Michael Chertoff (now the Secretary of the Dept. of Homeland Security) held that a non-protective strip search of a mother and her 10-year-old daughter (both of whom were not named in an affidavit filed in support of the search warrant) was unconstitutional because it lacked probable cause, Judge Alito dissented. He held that the warrant showed probable cause to extend the search to the mother and daughter, arguing that he “kn[e]w of no legal principle that bars an officer from searching a child (in a proper manner) if a warrant has been issued and the warrant is not illegal on its face.” Constitutional, Criminal Law Police lacked qualified immunity defense in this civil rights lawsuit
    Abdul-Aziz v. City of Newark
    (3d Circuit 1999)
    Writing for the Court, Judge Alito concludes that a police department’s policy requiring officers to shave their beards, without providing an exemption for religious reasons, violated the First Amendment rights of two Sunni Muslim officers. Employee Rights, First Amendment, Discrimination, Constitutional Law Verdict for
    Plaintiffs
    Bray v. Marriot Hotels
    (3d Circuit 1997)
    Alito writes a dissenting opinion in this employment discirmination and civil rights case, contending that “a reasonable factfinder” would not find that the employer should be held liable in concluding that a white employee was more qualified than plaintiff, a black employee. Employment Law, Civil Rights, and Constitutional Law, Court reversed District Court’s summary judgment ruling for employer.
    IMMIGRATION CASES
    A number of Judge Alito's immigration decisions involved applications for asylum from Chinese immigrants who argued that mandatory abortions and forced sterilizations constituted political persecution by the Chinese government.
    Case Summary of Facts Case Type Result
    Xiu Ling Zhang v. Gonzales
    (3d Circuit 2005)
    Writing the Court’s opinion, Alito highlighted the Board of Immigration Appeals (‘BIA’) error by failing to “[explain why the [alleged birth-control documents] that she submitted did not bolster her credibility...If authentic and accurate, they powerfully corroborate [her] claims.” Abortion, Immigration, Healthcare, Constitutional Law BIA judge’s order denying asylum and withholding of removal is vacated, and case remanded
    Cai Luan Chen v. Ashcroft
    (3d Circuit 2004)
    Alito concludes that the BIA’s decision to deny asylum applications to unmarried partners of persons who suffered forced abortions or involuntary sterilizations was “rational.” Abortion, Immigration, Constitutional Law BIA judge’s order denying asylum and withholding of removal is affirmed
    Gui Cun Liu v. Ashcroft
    (3d Circuit 2004)
    Alito holds that it was “legal error for the I[mmigration] J[udge] to reject the abortion certificates” solely on the ground that they were not authenticated under 8 C.F.R. § 287.6. Petitioner and her husband argued that she was forced two times by the Chinese government to have abortions, and that they faced government persecution because they are Christians. Abortion, Immigration, Constitutional Law Court vacates the BIA’s order denying asylum and withholding removal, and remands the case back to the BIA
    Cai Fung Wong v. Ashcroft
    (3d Circuit 2003)
    Alito wrote the majority opinion in upholding the denial of an immigrant’s political asylum application. The applicant cited fear that the Chinese government was requiring that she be sterilized after she had two children. Alito cited her failure to mention in her asylum application that she had already been sterilized as one of a number of factors supporting the Board of Immigration Appeal’s ('BIA') denial of her application. Abortion, Immigration Petitioner deported; BIA decision affirmed
    EMPLOYMENT LAW CASES
    Case Summary of Facts Case Type Result
    Sheridan v. E.I. DuPont
    de Nemours and Co.

    (3d Circuit 1996)
    Alito is the lone dissenting judge, arguing if “a plaintiff makes out a prima facie case and there is sufficient evidence in the record to permit a rational trier of fact to find that the employer's explanation is untrue, a defense motion for summary judgment or judgment as a matter of law should usually,” but not always be denied.” Employee Rights, Discrimination, Case remanded to District Court to deterimine if plaintiff had to show direct evidence of discriminatory intent.
    Abdul-Aziz v. City of Newark
    (3d Circuit 1999)
    Writing for the Court, Judge Alito concludes that a police department’s policy requiring officers to shave their beards, without providing an exemption for religious reasons, violated the First Amendment rights of two Sunni Muslim officers. Employee Rights, First Amendment, Discrimination, Constitutional Law Verdict for
    Plaintiffs
    Bray v. Marriot Hotels
    (3d Circuit 1997)
    Alito writes a dissenting opinion in this employment discirmination and civil rights case, contending that “a reasonable factfinder” would not find that the employer should be held liable in concluding that a white employee was more qualified than plaintiff, a black employee. Employment Law, Civil Rights, and Constitutional Law, Court reversed District Court’s summary judgment ruling for employer.
    EDUCATION LAW CASES
    Case Summary of Facts Case Type Result
    Child Evangelism Fellowship
    of New Jersey, Inc. v.
    Stafford Township Sch. Dist.

    (3d Circuit 2004)
    Alito writes the majority opinion which held that a school district could not deny a private evangelical after-school group the right to distribute literature at the school when it allowed other specified categories of groups to do the same, thereby creating “a limited public fora.” Education, Constitutional Law Verdict for Plaintiffs
    Shore Regional High School
    Bd. of Education v. P.S.

    (3d Circuit 2004)
    Writing the majority opinion, Alito concluded that a U.S. District Court erred in failing to defer to an administrative law judge's findings that “a student who had been subjected to severe and prolonged harassment by other students” in a Pennsylvania public school had his rights violated since the School District couldn't provide him with a “free appropriate public education“ under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). Education, Constitutional Law Verdict for student against school district
    Background Documents:
    Financial Records:
    News & Commentary:
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