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Alito’s poor poker face

We know what Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. has been known not to hide his feelings. But does he mock his colleagues on the bench?

That is the assessment of the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, who wrote that the justice let his body language do the talking during the court’s recent opinion announcements.

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was reading from a dissent, Alito “shook his head from side to side in disagreement, rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling,” Milbank wrote. During an opinion announcement from Justice Elena Kagan a few days earlier, Alito “glowered” and the newest justice made a joke. And when Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor made a quip during one of her opinions, “Alito rolled his eyes and shook his head,” according to the writer.

Alito sometimes saves expresses his disapproval in the written word as well. The National Law Journal’s Tony Mauro points out that Alito was not very keen on an analogy Kagan made involving the game Clue in an opinion, and he wrote so. And he even critiqued the oral argument answers of then Justice Department attorney, and now D.C. Circuit Judge, Sri Srinivasan in an opinion handed down Monday, as Josh Blackman noted on his blog.


  1. What do you expect him to do when confronted with idiots?

  2. Douglas Williams

    Years ago, I argued a case (in The Third Circuit) against the esteemed Mister Justice Alito when he was The United States Attorney for the district of New Jersey. (He apparently thought that the case, reported sub nom U.S. v. Accetturo was important enough to absolutely require his focused attention.)

    He lost. I won. During the arguments before a great panel of a great court, as it became more and more apparent that the court didn’t like either his position or his argument(s), he was pugnacious and petulant and short-tempered, almost to the point of being dismissive of the court. Obviously, I remember it well.

    I did not lightly decline to follow the district judge’s original order to undertake Accetturo’s defense (I’m an old-school kind of lawyer, and I deal with a/the court – – any court – – almost reverentially). In just the same way, I do not lightly make a comment – – any comment, much less a negative one – – concerning any judicial officer, much less a sitting Supreme Court Justice.

    Still, some things simply have to be said if for no other reason than to provide context; and sometimes, it is necessary, after all, to remind people – – everyone – – about the beauty and strength of First Amendment protected speech.

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