Will It Be Sam Alito?: I've seen some speculation around the blogosphere that Judge Samuel Alito of the Third Circuit may be tapped by President Bush to fill the O'Connor slot, perhaps as early as tomorrow. I know Judge Alito a little bit, and have two quick thoughts. First, Judge Alito is not a Scalia clone, contrary to what some news reports have claimed. Alito picked up the "Scalito" nickname early on, but while clever it's not accurate. Judge Alito is much more of a process-oriented judicial-restraint type than Scalia. While Alito is well-known for his early dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, generally speaking he hasn't approached the job of appellate judge with an ideological edge. Second, Judge Alito is one of the most likable people you'll ever meet. He comes off as modest, quiet, and very thoughtful, but he also has a sharp sense of humor. If picked, I think he will be (and should be) a popular choice in the Senate.
Quick Thoughts on the Alito Nomination: I'm very pleased. This was a smart pick by Bush. It will take a few weeks for Senate Democrats to get comfortable with Alito, I think; given the "Scalito" nickname often used to describe him, many initially will fear that Bush has nominated some kind of Scalia clone. In time, though, I think we'll see that Alito is more like John Roberts than Antonin Scalia. Like Roberts, Alito is an institutionalist who spent his career working in government at a very high level (including at the Solicitor General's Office). Like Roberts, Alito is a very likable person. In light of his similarites to Roberts, I expect that Alito will be confirmed without a filibuster.