South, Public Schools, Protestants Lacking on Court

By Matt Loffman

Apr 9, 2010 2:53pm

ABC's Z. Byron Wolf reports: SCOTUS diversity?
What about the South, public schools, protestants? When Sen. Arlen Specter said last week that he would like to see more diversity on the Supreme Court, he wasn’t referring to race or gender or even religion, even though the court is currently dominated 7-2 by men, has only one African American and one Hispanic justice, and, with the departure of Justice Stevens, two Jewish and six Catholic justices. Not exactly a snapshot of America. Specter was referring to resume; every sitting justice was first a federal judge. That’s not necessarily in keeping with even the most recent history of the body. Sandra Day O’Connor, for starters, had a long career in Arizona state politics. William Rehnquist worked at the Justice Department. Every one of the current sitting justices, on the other hand, came directly from another bench. Among the names said to be on President Obama’s short list is DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, who came to the Obama administration from Arizona state politics. But career trajectory is only one place where the court lacks diversity. Religion – With Stevens’ departure,  all but two of the sitting justices are Catholic. The other two – Ginsburg and Breyer – are Jewish. Less than one quarter of the US population is Catholic.  More than half the U.S. population is considered Protestant, but there won’t be a single Protestant Supreme Court justice. Education – With Stevens’ departure, every single justice will have gotten their legal education at an Ivy League school (Stevens went to Northwestern). And even among the Ivy League, there is not too much diversity. There will be four Harvard Law School alums, three Yale alumni, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg from Columbia. Poor Dartmouth and Penn. Among the Obama short-list nominees most discussed is Judge Diane Wood, who sits on the federal bench in Chicago, but went to the University of Texas at Austin as both an undergraduate and for law school. Geography – Stevens is from Chicago and John Roberts was raised in Indiana – born in Buffalo – but there is a striking lack of geographic diversity. No Southern justices, for instance. Two, Anthony Kennedy and Steven Breyer, hail from California. That means seven of the nine justices were born, raised, and educated North of Mason Dixon and East of the Mississippi. Wood was raised in Texas and now lives in Illinois. Judge Merrick Garland, another much-rumored member of the short list, was born and raised in Illinois. UPDATE: It should be noted that Justice Clarence Thomas was born and raised in Georgia. So there is one justice from the South. But Thomas moved to Massachusetts for college and spent most of his professional career in and around Washington, DC.

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