Court Choice Is Conservative by Nature, Not Ideology





It remains to be seen what kind of justice Judge Alito might turn out to be, if he gets the chance: whether, for instance, he is the upper-case conservative that the right may hope for and many on the left fear. An examination of several chapters in his life suggests he is conservative by temperament, upbringing and experience - conditions that appear to have shaped his approach to life and his work more than any narrow ideological niche.

"There are people in Washington who become a kind of tight political circle, in the sense of almost the secret handshake," said Douglas W. Kmiec, a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University who worked with Judge Alito in the office in the mid-1980's and became a close friend.

"I would put Sam and myself outside of that circle - not in the sense that we disagreed with anything in particular but that we were less willing to sign on for the fraternity," he said. "The one thing about fraternities is that they take on missions or causes that may be all right in themselves but you have to sign onto them in advance. Neither of us, by personality, would want that."

Throughout his life - at Yale Law School, as a government lawyer, as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals - Judge Alito has earned respect, even friendship, across the political spectrum. Some who describe themselves as liberals say they admire what they call Judge Alito's meticulousness and fair-mindedness - traits he appears to have come by early in life.



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