The Senate voted 58-42 to confirm the former federal appellate judge, U.S. attorney and conservative lawyer for the Reagan administration as a replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor, whose resignation became official with the Senate vote.
All but one of the Senate’s majority Republicans voted for Alito’s confirmation, while all but four Democrats voted against Alito — the smallest number of senators in the president’s opposing party to support a Supreme Court justice in modern history.
Alito was a judge on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.
During the Reagan administration, Alito served as assistant solicitor general and deputy attorney general, and as such, argued several cases before the Supreme Court.
He was the second Italian-American Catholic to join the high court after Justice Antonin Scalia. The similarities between the two men, both judicial conservatives, earned Alito the nickname “Scalito” among some lawyers, according to news reports.
Although he worked on more than 3,500 cases in his career and issued more than 300 opinions as judge, there were a handful of decisions that came under the microscope during his Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.
On the 3rd Circuit, Alito played a role in two high-profile abortion cases. In 1991, he voted to uphold Pennsylvania spousal notification requirements that were later struck down by the Supreme Court. In 2000, he joined a three-judge court in voiding a New Jersey prohibition on a late-term procedure that opponents call partial birth, reported Bloomberg news.
He cast a dissenting vote when the 3rd Circuit upheld a federal ban on machine gun possession in 1996. In 1997, he wrote an opinion upholding a city hall holiday display that contained a nativity scene, a menorah and secular items including a plastic Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman.
The Trenton, N.J.-born Alito is described by friends and colleagues as quiet and self-effacing with a wry sense of humor, according to a U.S. News and World Report profile.
A graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, he has a wife, Martha, a son in college and a daughter in high school.