Who Is Samuel Alito?

Samuel Alito, President Bush's nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, will likely spark opposition from Democrats because of his conservative views.

Unlike Harriet Miers, the nominee who bowed out last week after scathing criticism from both Democrats and conservatives, Alito is an experienced judge who has a strong conservative record. The 55-year-old New Jersey native has been on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since President George H.W. Bush appointed him in 1990. He has been dubbed "Scalito" by some lawyers because of similarities between his judicial philosophy and that of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Alito was deputy assistant U.S. attorney general under President Reagan. Judicial conservatives have praised Alito's 15 years on the bench, which has given him more appellate experience than most previous Supreme Court nominees. Conservative critics say Alito's record shows a commitment to a strict interpretation of the Constitution and argue that he has been a powerful voice for the First Amendment's guarantees of free speech and the free exercise of religion.

Views on Abortion May Spark Fight

Liberal groups, however, have focused Alito's similarities to Scalia and will likely argue that his nomination -- especially his record on civil rights and reproductive rights -- raises troubling concerns. Alito has been a frequent dissenter on the 3rd Circuit, known as one of the most liberal federal appellate benches in the nation.

Abortion rights and women's rights groups will likely oppose Alito because he has voted to uphold abortion regulations. In 1992, Alito dissented in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a case where the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a provision requiring women seeking abortions to notify their spouses.

"The Pennsylvania legislature could have rationally believed that some married women are initially inclined to obtain an abortion without their husbands' knowledge because of perceived problems -- such as economic constraints, future plans or the husbands' previously expressed opposition -- that may be obviated by discussion prior to the abortion," Alito wrote.

The Planned Parenthood case ultimately ended up at the Supreme Court where the justices, in a 6-3 decision struck down the spousal notification provision.

However, Alito upheld a ruling in 2000 that found a New Jersey law banning partial-birth abortions unconstitutional. In his concurring opinion, he said that "any limits on abortion must have an exception for the preservation of the health of the mother."

In another notable case, Alito upheld Jersey City's right to display a menorah and crèche outside city hall as long as officials included a Santa, a Frosty the Snowman and little red sleigh and an evergreen decorated with Kwanzaa ribbons.

Alito has a reputation for being polite, reserved and even-tempered. He and his wife, Martha, live in West Caldwell, N.J. They have two children, Philip and Laura.