CNN pundit: Justice Samuel Alito and Biden's solicitor general frequently clash

 November 7, 2023

A CNN pundit has called Justice Samuel Alito "the tip of the spear for conservatives" when it comes to squaring off against the Biden administration’s top lawyer. 

Joan Biskupic serves as CNN's senior Supreme Court analyst, and in an op-ed piece published on Monday, she detailed how Alito often clashes with Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar.

Two conflicting styles

Biskupic described Alito as a "fierce questioner" who "becomes demonstrably riled when he fails to get the answer he wants," with eye rolls and head shakes being a common site.

However, the analyst stressed that Prelogar "is not derailed by what he puts down," responding "with a steady pitch and precision."

Biskupic noted that the pair have previously sparred in cases involving abortion and vaccine mandates, something she expected to happen again this week in a case related to the Second Amendment.

Yet Biskupic pointed out that although the 73-year-old Supreme Court justice and 43-year-old solicitor general are separated by ideology and four decades of life, their careers share some overlap.

Alito once argued cases for the Reagan administration

She recalled how at one point "Alito, a Trenton, New Jersey, native, once stood at the lectern that Prelogar commands today."

Biskupic explained that the future justice got his start in the solicitor general’s office under President Ronald Reagan, who later nominated him to be a US attorney in New Jersey.

President George H.W. Bush appointed him to the federal judiciary shortly thereafter, with President W. Bush putting Alito on the nation's highest judicial body in 2006 after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired.

Meanwhile, Biskupic observed that Prelogar's first experience with judges came not in the courtroom but on a beauty pageant stage, where she won the title of Miss Idaho as well as a law school scholarship.

From there she went on to clerk for left-wing Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan as well as work on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ultimately fruitless investigation of former President Donald Trump.

Alito once praised Pelogar's performance in a mock trial

Biskupic acknowledged that Alito is not the only member of the conservative-leaning Supreme Court that Prelogar has been at odds with.

Yet while she described Chief Justice John Roberts as "a tough questioner," Biskupic said that he lacks "the palpable antagonism that often comes from Alito."

Still, Biskupic indicated that Alito and Prelogar have had at least one non-antagonistic interaction: in 2016, Alito praised her performance when the Washington-based Shakespeare Theatre Company staged a mock trial.

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