(WASHINGTON) Samuel A. Alito Jr. was quickly branded a hard-core conservative after President Bush announced his nomination, but a surprising number of liberal-leaning judges and ex-clerks say they support his elevation to the Supreme Court.

Those who have worked alongside him say he was neither an ideologue nor a judge with an agenda, conservative or otherwise. They caution against attaching a label to Alito.

Kate Pringle, a New York lawyer who worked last year on Sen. John F. Kerry’s presidential campaign, describes herself as a left-leaning Democrat and a big fan of Alito’s.

She worked for him as a law clerk in 1994, and said she was troubled by the initial reaction to his nomination. ‘He was not, in my personal experience, an ideologue. He pays attention to the facts of cases and applies the law in a careful way. He is conservative in that sense; his opinions don’t demonstrate an ideological slant,’ she said.

Jeff Wasserstein, a Washington lawyer who clerked for Alito in 1998, echoes her view.

‘I am a Democrat who always voted Democratic, except when I vote for a Green candidate — but Judge Alito was not interested in the ideology of his clerks,’ he said. ‘He didn’t decide cases based on ideology, and his record was not extremely conservative.’ ” More…