Justice Alito criticizes The Sopranos

February 13, 2008 7:04:34 PM PST
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. delivered a personal opinion on Wednesday, criticizing "The Sopranos" for spreading what he says are stereotypes about Italian-Americans.

During a visit to Rutgers University, Alito complained that the hit HBO television drama associated not only Italian-Americans with the Mafia, but New Jerseyans as well.

"You have a trifecta - gangsters, Italian-Americans, New Jersey - wedded in the popular American imagination," Alito said at an event sponsored by the university's Italian studies program.

Alito lived for nearly two decades in a West Caldwell home in the same area of New Jersey where the fictional Tony Soprano was supposed to live. Alito told the gathering of about 100 people that a friend in California once sent him a map of Sopranos-related locations.

"He wanted me to put down where my house was on the map," Alito said to laughs.

Alito's comments about "The Sopranos," which went off the air last year, were part of a larger talk in which the U.S. Supreme Court justice and New Jersey native lamented that there are too many stereotypes about Italians in the United States.

He said the real story of Italian people who came here, some succeeding and some failing and going back to Italy, needed to be preserved because it told something about the United States' "true nature as a nation of immigrants."

The 57-year-old Alito was born in Trenton, grew up in Hamilton Township and attended Princeton University before going to law school at Yale.

Last year, Alito and his wife moved from West Caldwell to northern Virginia so he could be closer to his new job.

Alito said he was glad journalists scrutinized his family history during his confirmation, giving him a free genealogy.

He marveled how his father and grandmother arrived in the United States at Philadelphia not too far from where he eventually served as a federal appeals court judge.

"The contrast of what I was doing there and what they looked like disembarking to prominent Philadelphians is very striking to me," Alito said.

Since taking his seat on the court in January 2006, Alito has generally sided with other conservative members of the court, including his fellow Trenton native - Antonin Scalia.

During the talk, Alito did not discuss legal issues or any of the cases the court has confronted during his tenure.

His appearance came on the heels of a controversial interview by Scalia that aired Tuesday on the British Broadcasting Corp. during which Scalia discussed harsh U.S. interrogation techniques.

Scalia said aggressive interrogation techniques could be appropriate if authorities needed to quickly learn where a bomb set to explode was located or discover the location or plans of a terrorist group.

"It seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say you couldn't, I don't know, stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face. It would be absurd to say you couldn't do that," Scalia said in the interview.