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Wed Jul 11, 2018, 08:55 AM

What's Missing from the Supreme Court

ON THE BENCH

What’s Missing from the Supreme Court

America’s top justices are less like the rest of America than ever before.

By JOHN F. HARRIS and MATTHEW NUSSBAUM July 11, 2018

If Brett Kavanaugh’s swift, steady climb up the American legal ladder clears one more rung, the Supreme Court of the United States will have a majority of justices, five of them, who as young adults previously worked there in intensely coveted positions as clerks.

It will have seven justices who before joining the Court worked in pivotal chapters of their careers as favored subordinates to powerful figures in Washington, D.C. It will have eight people who served tenures on federal appellate courts. ... And it will have nine justices — all of them — who took their legal educations at Harvard or Yale. This actually represents no change, since retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy also went to Harvard. ... Kavanaugh’s ascension would further ratify a trend that has been building for a generation: a Court of careerists.

A generation of apple-polishers and resume jockeys is one byproduct of the decades-long partisan war over control of the Court. Legal interest groups, such as the conservative Federalist Society, identify like-minded activists and scholars they hope will someday serve on appellate courts and the Supreme Court early in their professional lives. Presidents want to nominate justices who won’t offer personal or ideological surprises in the confirmation process or once on the bench.

Yet in nominating a conservative prodigy who checks all the conventional boxes — Yale Law, a Supreme Court clerkship, a stint in the Bush White House — President Donald Trump guaranteed that the Court will again have zero members who have ever held elective office. Only one who ever served in the U.S. military (Samuel Alito, for three months active duty in 1975 followed by several years in the Army reserves). Zero who started a business. Zero who went abroad with the Peace Corps. Zero, even, who zigged and zagged through their twenties or early thirties — in the way that millions of ultimately successful Americans have done — between travel here, a false career start there, a wandering path in which they wondered with an open mind what they really wanted to do in life.
....

John F. Harris is editor-in-chief of POLITICO and author of “The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House.“

Matthew Nussbaum is a White House reporter for POLITICO.

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Reply What's Missing from the Supreme Court (Original post)
mahatmakanejeeves Jul 11 OP
madaboutharry Jul 11 #1
Nitram Jul 11 #2
Danmel Sunday #3
andytheteacher Sunday #4

Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Wed Jul 11, 2018, 09:09 AM

1. This is not entirely true.

Justice Sotomayor grew up in the Bronx and was raised by a single mother. She didn't exactly come from a gilded background.
Justice Ginsburg grew up in Brooklyn, lost her mother to cancer as a teenager, and after she graduated from law school was only able to find a job as a secretary.

These women, and I am sure Justice Kagan as well, fought hard against a system designed to keep them out. What they had going for them was great intellect and determination. And none of these Justices have forgotten where they came from.

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Response to madaboutharry (Reply #1)

Wed Jul 11, 2018, 09:37 AM

2. That's was my reaction, madabout.

Sotamayor, Kagan, and Ginsburg have real life experiences that are just as valuable (or more so) than business, military, or political experience.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 10:43 AM

3. Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor also faced discrimination

For being Jewish and Latina, respectively.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 08:24 PM

4. Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas grew up in the south in total poverty and without power based on a 60 minutes piece I saw once. Doesn't make him a better justice. I'd rather we not worry about the life story and instead focused on their credentials and philosophy.

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