Early life and education
Alito was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Samuel A. Alito, Sr., an Italian immigrant, and Rose Fradusco, an Italian-American. Alito's father, now deceased, was a high school teacher and later the first Director of the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, a state government position he held from 1952 to 1984. Alito's mother is a retired schoolteacher.
Alito grew up in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, a suburb of Trenton. He graduated from Steinert High School in Hamilton Township as the class valedictorian, and graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 1972 before attending Yale Law School, where he served as an editor on the Yale Law Journal and earned a Juris Doctor in 1975.
At Princeton, Alito chaired a student conference in 1971 called "The Boundaries of Privacy in American Society" which, among other things, supported curbs on domestic intelligence gathering and anticipated the need for a statute and a court to oversee national security surveillance. The conference report itself also called for the decriminalization of sodomy, and urged for an end to discrimination against gays in hiring by employers. "Though Alito's name is attached to the chair's report, it remains unclear to what extent the report represented his personal opinions. Alumni, who served as 'commissioners' for the junior conference Alito chaired, offered conflicting information on how best to interpret the report." Alito also led the American Whig-Cliosophic Society's Debate Panel during his time at Princeton. He avoided Princeton's eating clubs, joining Stevenson Hall instead.
While a sophomore at Princeton, Alito received a low lottery number, 32, in the Selective Service drawing on December 1, 1969. In 1970, he became a member of the school's Army ROTC program, attending a six-week basic training camp that year at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Alito was a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, which was formed in October 1972 at least in part to oppose Princeton's decisions regarding admitting women. Apart from Alito's written 1985 statement of membership of CAP on a job application, which he says was truthful, there is no other documentation of Alito's involvement with or contributions to the group. Alito has cited the banning and subsequent treatment of ROTC by the university as his reason for belonging to CAP.
At Princeton, Alito was "almost alone" in his familiarity with the writings of John Marshall Harlan II and was much influenced by the course on constitution interpretation taught by Walter F. Murphy, also his faculty adviser.
During his senior year at Princeton, Alito moved out of New Jersey for the first time to study in Italy, where he wrote his thesis on the Italian legal system. Graduating in 1972, Alito left a sign of his lofty aspirations in his yearbook, which said that he hoped to "eventually warm a seat on the Supreme Court".
After graduating from Princeton, Alito was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and assigned to the United States Army Reserve. At Yale, Alito was a classmate of future-Dean Anthony T. Kronman and one year behind future Justice Clarence Thomas. Following his graduation from Yale Law School, Alito served on active duty from September to December 1975. The remainder of his time in the Army was served in the inactive Reserves. He was a captain when he received an honorable discharge in 1980.
Early legal career
After graduating from Yale Law School in 1975, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal, Alito clerked for Third Circuit appeals judge Leonard I. Garth in Newark, New Jersey in 1976 and 1977. He interviewed with Supreme Court Justice Byron White for a clerkship but was not hired. Between 1977 and 1981, Alito was Assistant United States Attorney, District of New Jersey. There he served under then U.S. Attorney, now Federal Circuit Judge, Maryanne Trump Barry. (Barry and Alito later served alongside each other as judges on the Third Circuit.) While an Assistant U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, he prosecuted many cases involving drug trafficking and organized crime.
From 1981 to 1985, Alito was Assistant to U.S. Solicitor General Rex E. Lee. In that capacity he argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court for the federal government. In Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (1986), the Supreme Court ruled against Charles Fried after he rejected a memo by Alito urging the Solicitor General to avoid directly attacking the constitutional right to an abortion. Alito lost only two of the cases he argued before the Supreme Court.
From 1985 to 1987, Alito was Deputy Assistant Attorney General under Charles J. Cooper in the Office of Legal Counsel during the tenure of Attorney General Edwin Meese. John F. Manning worked under Alito there. Between 1986 and 1987, Alito authored nearly 470 pages of memorandums, in which he argued for expanding his client's law enforcement and personnel authorities. In his 1985 application for Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Alito espoused conservative views, naming William F. Buckley, Jr., the National Review, Alexander Bickel, and Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign as major influences. He also expressed concern about Warren Court decisions in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment.
From 1987 to 1990, Alito was the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey. When he arrived, the office had begun the prosecution of 20 defendants accused of being mob affiliates of Anthony Accetturo. In August 1988, the two-year trial, then the longest federal criminal trial in history, ended in the acquittal of all 20 after less than two days of jury deliberations. Alito soon hired Michael Chertoff as his chief deputy.
After an FBI agent was shot in the line of duty in 1988, Alito personally handled the trial, assigning himself the then-novice Stuart Rabner as an assistant, and securing the shooter's conviction. In March 1988, Alito sought a rehearing of extradition proceeding against two Indian men, represented by Ron Kuby, who were accused of being terrorist assassins, after Alito discovered that the death threats his prosecutor had received had been sent to her by herself. The prosecutor was later found not guilty of obstruction of justice by reason of insanity, after psychiatrists found she was a possible schizophrenic with up to four distinct personalities. In 1989, Alito prosecuted a member of the Japanese Red Army for planning a terrorist bombing in Manhattan.
Career as Adjunct Professor
As adjunct professor at Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark from 1999 to 2004, Alito taught courses in constitutional law and an original course on terrorism and civil liberties. In 1995, he was presented with the school's Saint Thomas More Medal "in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field of law". On May 25, 2007, he delivered the commencement address at Seton Hall Law's commencement ceremony and received an honorary law degree from the school.
Alito has been a member of the Federalist Society, a group of conservatives and libertarian lawyers and legal students interested in conservative legal theory.
As a visiting professor at Duke University School of Law, Alito taught Current Issues in Constitutional Interpretation in fall 2011 and a course in the Master of Laws in Judicial Studies program in summer 2012.