A new era began this month at the Supreme Court as Samuel Alito took a crucial seat on the bench.
The close Senate confirmation vote—58 to 42—reflected the nation’s division over the Court’s future. Of those who voted January 31 against Alito, 40 were Democrats, one was a left-leaning independent, and one—Rhode Island senator Lincoln Chafee—was a moderate Republican.
Less than two hours after the vote, Chief Justice John Roberts swore in the fellow conservative jurist—like him a former federal appeals court judge and once a part of the Reagan administration. And in his first case on the evening of February 1, Alito split with the Court’s conservatives by joining five other justices in denying Missouri’s last-minute plea to execute a death row inmate contesting lethal injection.