Alito’s mic battles

Leaving aside Justice Clarence Thomas, whose silence on the bench during oral argument is legendary, of the Supreme Court’s justices, Samuel Alito, Jr. could aptly be called “the quiet one.”

One reason for that, according to a profile today in USA Today, was that the junior justice was just trying to be polite – at least in the beginning.

“I did feel, as the newest justice, I should be deferential,” Alito said. “I didn’t want to cut off any of their questions.” Now in his second full term on the bench, he’s a bit more vocal, and often asks questions on the bench – although no where near as many as his brethren.

In the USA Today piece, Alito shares some other observations about the view from One First St., NE. “The [legal] questions are harder here, and the average quality of oral arguments is higher” than at the 3d Circuit Court of Appeals, where he was a judge, or even at the Supreme Court, where he argued before justices in the 1980s as an assistant U.S. solicitor general.

Another thing he is learning: how to deal with that pesky microphone on the bench that sometimes ends up whacking him in the head. “It is in the way,” said Alito, who often leans forward while listening to the attorneys who argue before the Court. “Then you can’t help hitting it when you gesture. It’s kind of awkward.”

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