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Justice Alito finds his field of dreams

By Bill Mears
CNN

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It has been a very good year for Justice Samuel Alito.

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Supreme Court
Judiciary (system of justice)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In just five months, Justice Samuel Alito has lived out two lifelong dreams. He sits on the highest court in the land, and last month took the mound to throw out the first pitch at a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game.

The 56-year-old New Jersey native wore a team cap and a No. 1 home jersey with "Alito" on the back. His fastball wasn't so fast, but it went across the plate to the waiting arms of the Phanatic, the team's mascot.

Alito said he practiced with his teenage son, Philip, "so I wouldn't throw it in the stands. It was kind of demoralizing that the Phanatic caught it without a glove."

Still, it was a nice Father's Day outing for the justice, who has rooted for the Phillies since childhood and dreamed as a kid of being a professional ball player. He even attended a weeklong Phillies Phantasy Camp in 1994, where he received instruction from -- and played in games with -- former team star and manager Larry Bowa.

Alito said he received an award at the camp for his defensive skills. His prowess with a bat? "I couldn't hit at all," was all he would say.

Alito isn't the first justice to show his athletic skills in public. John Paul Stevens threw out the first pitch last September at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The 86-year-old Chicago native showed surprising arm strength, due perhaps to his active lifestyle. He plays golf and tennis regularly.

Monumental decision

An 850-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments on private property across the street from the Supreme Court will be allowed to stand after Washington city officials backed down from their order to remove it.

The tablet sits on display at a brownstone's tiny front yard in the historic Capitol Hill area. The building is the home of Faith in Action, a religious group led by the Rev. Rob Schenck.

The group seeks to bring Christian ideals into public policy debate, and erected the monument earlier this year without a city permit.

District of Columbia law requires government permission because the Commandments are in a historic district. Officials threatened a $300 per day fine.

But last week the city backed down, telling the group in a letter, "In view of the First Amendment interests... the District Department of Transportation has concluded you do not need to seek a permit for the sculpture."

"We will remain vigilant," Schenck said. "We may have won this opening round, but the fight is far from over."

An atheist group has threatened a lawsuit if the monument is allowed to remain. Schenck has vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court.

Footloose

With the justices now beginning a nearly three-month break, many will find time for overseas travel. No official schedule is expected from the court, but several of the nine-member bench make annual journeys in their roles as high-profile judges.

Financial records released last month show five of the nine justices traveled to foreign countries last year, to lecture or teach.

Chief Justice John Roberts -- then a federal appeals court judge -- was in England to teach a law course last July when he was summoned to Washington to interview for the Supreme Court vacancy created by the pending retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor.

He received the nomination, but before taking the seat, he was re-nominated for the chief justice vacancy created by the sudden death of William Rehnquist.

Justice Anthony Kennedy took 15 foreign and domestic trips, including stops in Thailand, Hong Kong, Austria, and the Czech Republic. He also earned the most money from teaching, $24,000.

Other justices who ventured overseas in the past few months include Antonin Scalia to Switzerland, Ruth Bader Ginsburg to South Africa, and Stephen Breyer to Australia.

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