There are rare moments in oral arguments when a U.S. Supreme Court justice’s statement becomes a “make or break” sign for an advocate’s case. Justice Samuel Alito Jr. signaled the government’s defeat during such a moment in a key job bias case the court decided on Monday—and written by Alito.

The moment came during arguments Jan. 15 in the case Babb v. Wilkie, a dispute involving federal employment and claims of age discrimination. Alito told U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco: “I have a terrible time fitting your argument into the statutory language.”

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