Speaking to D. Brooks Smith, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in a conversation reported on by the Wall Street Journal, Alito revealed that he used to “test out” ideas on his dog, before he passed away. “Late at night when I was thinking about cases I would test out my ideas with Zeus. He generally agreed with me,” he said.
Alito also revealed that if he was stuck on a particularly difficult case, he had a “special way” of making a decision. “I put the red [respondent’s] brief over here and the blue [petitioner’s] brief over there, equal distance from Zeus, and I’d put a few dog treats on both. Then I would let Zeus go,” he said. “If he went to blue brief, then we would reverse.”
At a lunch meeting at the Roger Williams University School of Law in 2012, Alito joked that he had used that process to help him come to a decision in the 2010 case of U.S. v. Stevens, leading him to be the sole dissenter. In the case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a federal law banning depictions of animal cruelty violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.