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Professor Lisa McElroy Examines U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s Historic Oral Arguments on C-SPAN Radio

January 02, 2013

On Dec. 26 C-SPAN radio aired portions of two U.S. Supreme Court cases argued by then Assistant Solicitor General Samuel Alito who now serves as a justice of the court himself. Professor Lisa McElroy provided commentary on the arguments.

In the first case, United States v. Weber Aircraft, Alito argued that the Freedom of Information Act did not require the U.S. Air Force to release crash investigation witness testimony, McElroy explained.

McElroy described Alito’s demeanor as confident and tough but highly professional. At the time of the arguments Alito was very young, only 34 years old and less than 10 years out of law school, and yet performed remarkably, McElroy said.  The justices unanimously decided the case in favor of the United States, she said.

In Federal Communications Commission v. League of Women Voters of California, Alito argued for the constitutionality of a law precluding public radio and television outlets receiving federal funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from editorializing,

Although he lost the case, Alito made important substantive distinctions between commercial broadcasting and public broadcasting, McElroy said.

What is also interesting is just how well Alito performed despite having just a few days to prepare for the case, McElroy added. Most attorneys spend months preparing for U.S. Supreme Court arguments, McElroy said, however, Alito was never supposed to argue this case. The lead attorney suffered a heart attack just prior to the arguments leaving Alito with just a few days to prepare, McElroy explained.

Now a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Alito remains just as calm, thoughtful and prepared as he was as litigator, yet also highly engages those litigators now before him, McElroy concluded.