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Justice Alito shares rookie frustrations with UA law students

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

TUSCALOOSA — Justice Samuel Alito says he has a hard time getting in a word during oral arguments as the newest member of the Supreme Court. And he's got the evidence to prove it.

Poking fun at some of his colleagues during a talk to University of Alabama law students Tuesday, Alito played audio snippets of convoluted, sometimes sarcastic remarks made by fellow justices during his first year on the court.

Alito grinned as Justice Stephen G. Breyer was heard asking a complicated legal question that morphed into mention of a raccoon in his garage. On a big screen, Alito flashed a slide that showed side-by-side photos of Breyer and a raccoon.

As the court's junior member, Alito said, it can be tough to find the right time to ask a question while lawyers are arguing and other justices are peppering them with questions.

Despite the difficulties, Alito said neither written arguments nor technology like e-mail and Blackberries can replace the give-and-take of attorneys and justices talking to each other across the bench.

Recounting the history of oral arguments before the court, Alito said hearing from attorneys and asking them questions was a valuable final step for justices before deciding a case.

"I don't think any kind of written submission could serve that purpose," he said.

Nominated by President Bush and confirmed to the court last year, Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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