Justice Samuel Alito: Offensive Lineman on the Supreme Court Team

New York Times Magazine, March 20, 2011

MYSTERIOUS JUSTICE:  What drives Samuel Alito, anyway?

by Emily Hazelon

“Five years into his tenure, Justice Samuel Alito is the one conservative on the Supreme Court without a flashy legal signature. We know what to expect from the other justices on the court’s reliable right:…Alito usually reaches the same results as the others, but he does it by being small-bore. ‘He’s the offensive linesman on the team,’ a clerk who worked for Alito when he was a federal judge says, ‘He puts his head down and stays focused on the case in front of him.’

An offensive lineman‘s job on an American football team is to keep the defensive lineman from the ball carrier.  He does not call the plays for the team as a quarterback would, nor does he carry the ball except under unusual circumstances.  He concentrates on the lineman in front of him.  

He is small-bore:  This is a second sports idiom which refers to a rifle with a small bored hole and therefore uses a small bullet, as opposed to a shot-gun approach.  Small bore is precise and limited.


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