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Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to Speak at Pepperdine

Justice Alito

Topic Will Focus on the Craft of Judicial Opinion Writing

The Honorable Samuel A. Alito, Jr., associate justice of the United States will speak on "Lawyering and the Craft of Judicial Opinion Writing" at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California, Wednesday, July 30, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The session is open to the public and will be especially of interest to members of the judiciary and those in federal practice.

Justice Alito will be joined by The Honorable Michael W. McConnell, United States Appellate Judge for the Tenth Circuit, The Honorable Walter E. Dellinger III, former United States Solicitor General, Pepperdine School of Law dean and former Solicitor General Ken Starr, and Professor Douglas W. Kmiec, former United States Assistant Attorney General (OLC).

The topic of the conversation, judicial opinion writing, is a craft rarely studied comprehensively in law school or in practice despite its importance. According to Professor Kmiec, "This conversation with a distinguished member of the High Court, an acclaimed legal scholar turned appellate judge, and two prominent law teachers, both of whom have represented the United States and private clients, is a unique opportunity to rectify this oversight."

The distinguished speakers will discuss standards of excellence in legal reasoning and how the law's coherence is principally advanced or impeded in opinion writing. All are welcome to register and be part of this conversation which seeks to better understand how the Court is perceived by its writing.


Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr., is an associate justice of the United States. He received an A.B. from Princeton University in 1972 and a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1975. He served as a law clerk for Leonard I. Garth of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit from 1976-1977. He was assistant U.S. attorney, District of New Jersey, 1977-1981, assistant to the solicitor general, U.S. Department of Justice, 1981-1985, deputy assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice, 1985-1987, and U.S. Attorney, District of New Jersey, 1987-1990. He was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in 1990. President George W. Bush nominated him to the Supreme Court, and he took his seat on January 31, 2006.

Michael W. McConnell, was nominated by George W. Bush on September 4, 2001, and confirmed by the Senate on November 15, 2002, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Judge McConnell was educated at the Michigan State University, B.A., 1976 and the University of Chicago Law School, J.D., 1979. He was a law clerk to the Honorable J. Skelly Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 1979-1980 and Associate Justice William J. Brennan, Supreme Court of the United States, 1980-1981. He was assistant general counsel, Office of Management and Budget, 1981-1983 and assistant to the solicitor general, U.S. Department of Justice, 1983-1985. Following his federal executive service, Judge McConnell was a professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School, 1985-1996, and is the Presidential Professor of Law at the University of Utah College of Law.

Walter E. Dellinger II is chair of the appellate practice at O'Melveny & Myers and is the Douglas B. Maggs Professor of Law at Duke University. He served as acting Solicitor General for the 1996-1997 Term of the Supreme Court. He has argued many high-profile cases before the Court, including those dealing with the Second Amendment, physician-assisted suicide, the line-item veto, the Brady Act, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Professor Dellinger received his B.A., with honors, from the University of North Carolina and his J.D. from Yale. A law clerk for Justice Hugo L. Black, he served in the White House in 1993 as a legal advisor to President Clinton, and for three years in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), following his confirmation as U.S. Assistant Attorney General.

Kenneth W. Starr is the Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean at Pepperdine and of counsel, Kirkland & Ellis. He previously served as U.S. Solicitor General, 1989-1993; Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, 1983-1989; and Independent Counsel, 1994-2001. A George Washington and Duke Law graduate, he has argued more than two dozen times before the High Court. Dean Starr joined the Pepperdine faculty in 2004 and is the author of First Among Equals: The Supreme Court in American Life.

Douglas W. Kmiec is Caruso Family Chair and Professor of Constitutional Law, Pepperdine University. Nominated by President Reagan and confirmed as U.S. Assistant Attorney General and head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), Professor Kmiec served in OLC from 1985 to 1989. Outside of government service, he served as Dean of The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and a tenured professor for nearly two decades at the law school of the University of Notre Dame, where he was director of the Center on Law and Government.