Justice Alito’s wife has managed to avoid the spotlight until now

In the 18 years since her family left their New Jersey home and entered some of Washington’s most rarefied circles, Martha-Ann Alito has never sought or cultivated a particularly public identity.

As the wife of Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., Ms. Alito described living a largely private life since her confirmation to the Supreme Court in 2006 — a life based on raising two children and supporting her husband through intense scrutiny and razor-sharp politics.

On the rare occasions when she appeared to address an audience or converse with reporters, Ms. Alito often spoke of herself in terms of her role within a close-knit nuclear family, the now united thanks to her husband’s meteoric and sometimes difficult rise through the justice system.

“The most amazing thing is why people care about our lives,” she said in a 2006 interview, looking back on Justice Alito’s confirmation hearing, which at one point left her in shock. tears and sparked a discussion about the detrimental effects of partisanship on candidates. ‘parents.

But since the New York Times reports raised questions about how and why an upside-down American flag appeared outside his family’s home in Alexandria, Virginia, just days after Capitol rioters waved the same flag in January. 6, 2021, Ms. Alito, 70, suddenly finds herself at the center of a controversy. Her husband said she placed him there in the middle of a neighborhood argument.

By the time the family was about to move to Washington, the Alitos’ children were college-age. Ms. Alito described welcoming the change, after leaving a career as a librarian to become a full-time housewife and mother.

But the arduous preparations and harsh reception that Justice Alito met in Congress left a bitter memory that Ms. Alito would remember publicly for years, denouncing the proceedings and the media coverage surrounding them.

“For me personally, the previous two months were the horrible part of our lives,” she said while introducing her husband at an awards ceremony in April 2007. “And fortunately, I wasn’t not in Washington, so I didn’t have to read I look at the newspapers, I look at the blogs, or I look at the computer, and I have maintained this standard: I don’t read anymore, except when I choose to pick up a book .

The pointed questions Justice Alito faced from Democrats regarding his views on abortion, his affiliation with a conservative Princeton alumni group and his willingness to defer to the Court’s precedents struck Ms. Alito as demeaning.

“In the current state of the world, Sam is far from an imminent threat to civil liberties,” she said in the 2006 interview.

Overcoming this abrupt transition reflects the upheavals of her childhood, which Ms. Alito has discussed publicly. His father, who worked as an air traffic controller in the Air Force, regularly moved the family between outposts in Texas, Florida, Maine and the Azores Islands of Portugal. His mother worked as a librarian on the bases where they lived.

After following her mother’s path to becoming a librarian at a New Jersey public library, the U.S. attorney’s office in Newark, and the Justice Department, Ms. Alito built a limited public life in Washington, focused primarily on projects. apolitical and charitable works.

When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s husband, Martin Ginsburg, died in 2010, Ms. Alito organized the publication of a cookbook to celebrate his culinary passions. In honor of her father’s service, she also spoke about his work as director of a group focused on ending veteran homelessness.

While some partners of other Supreme Court justices — like Jane Sullivan Roberts or Virginia Thomas — have been enmeshed in controversies in recent years over their professional lives and political leanings, Ms. Alito has not.

Only at rare times did Ms. Alito’s personal relationships attract attention: once, after she and Justice Alito shared a meal with a couple who later claimed that they had been informed in advance of the decision of a pending case, and again when the stock and mining interests she had inherited from her father increased. Minor concerns about conflicts of interest in matters her husband might decide.

Ms. Alito graduated from the University of Kentucky with a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature in 1976 and a master’s degree in library science in 1977. She met Justice Alito in the law library when he was an assistant United States attorney. The two married in 1985, five years after their first date, in the church in which he was baptized.

Leave a Comment