Associated Press Writer

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s college thesis adviser said Tuesday that Alito was a conservative and “the most judicious student I’ve ever had,” but said he did not know how Alito might rule on key issues such as abortion that are likely to face the court.

Retired Princeton University professor Walter F. Murphy recalled Alito as a college undergraduate who could quickly and succinctly summarize both sides of an argument and give a reasoned opinion.

“It was like listening to a great judge,” said Murphy, who said he predicted Alito would be a famous judge.

Some of Alito’s college activities don’t adhere tightly to conservative views, Murphy said. For example, Alito led a task force that advocated expanding anti-discrimination laws to protect gays, women and minorities, Murphy said.

He also described Alito as someone who respects judicial precedent.

“He’s basically a conservative person. He doesn’t sit back and say, ‘If I had to remake the world, here’s how I’d do it.”‘

Murphy said Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion, was decided after Alito had graduated and the two never spoke about the landmark case. Abortion will be a key question Alito, 55, will face at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in January.

Born in Trenton, Alito was raised in Hamilton and now lives in West Caldwell. He has been a judge on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1990.

Murphy, who taught jurisprudence at Princeton and said he was friends with deceased justices such as William O. Douglas, William H. Renquist and William J. Brennan Jr., said he has not seen Alito for more than a decade.

He said he and Alito worked closely in the early 1970s. They swapped translations of Italian Constitutional Court decisions that Alito used for his senior thesis, “An Introduction to the Italian Constitutional Court.”

Alito’s research and writing was so strong, Murphy said in a phone conversation from Albuquerque, N.M., where he now lives, that it was one of only about a half-dozen student papers he kept. The paper was missing from Princeton’s archives until Murphy sent the university a copy this week.

Princeton archivists said the entire thesis would be available electronically later this week.

And the subject matter, Murphy said, suggests that Alito might take a different view than fellow conservatives such as Antonin Scalia, who believes that American jurists should not look at foreign court decisions to guide their interpretations of the United States Constitution.

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