The Supreme Court’s Diversity Problem


The United States Supreme Court is more diverse than it has ever been.

Sure, you have four white guys. But there are now three women on the court, one African-American, and one Hispanic.

But diversity is about more than melanin and chromosomes.

The Court, for example, is made up entirely of heterosexuals, there are no justices under the age of 55, and only two religions are represented. Five justices are Catholic (compared to 20 percent of the population), and three are Jewish (2 percent of the population).

If President Obama gets his way and Merrick Garland is confirmed to the Court, none of these statistics will improve. Garland is a 63-year-old straight, white, Jewish male. My guess is we’ll hear plenty of commentary about his demographics.

What we won’t here is this: in one particularly area, the Supreme Court has never been less diverse than it is right now. Educational background.

Merrick Garland went to Harvard.

Of course he did! Why wouldn’t he? Of the eight sitting justices, four went to Harvard. Garland would be the fifth. The man he would replace, Antonin Scalia, was also a Harvard alum.

Counting Garland, 7 of the last 11 Supreme Court justices graduated from Harvard Law. Go back to 1970, and you’ll find that 10 of the last 16 walked the corridors at Cambridge.

After the Harvard majority, the Court doesn’t get any more diverse. Three justices went to Yale. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the only educational rebel on the panel. She turned her tassel at Columbia.

This isn’t a commentary on the quality of education at Harvard Law. I’m sure it’s great. I mean, I’ve seen both Legally Blonde and Legally Blonde 2. Also Legally Blonde: The Musical. They are clearly getting a world-class education. But are they also doing the bend and snap during their vetting interviews or something? There has to be an explanation.

I’m not saying the graduates of the program are indoctrinated into a certain set of beliefs. You can’t look at Scalia and Breyer and make that claim.

What I am saying is the diversity comes in many forms.

Diversity in demographics. Sure.

Diversity in opinion. Of course.

Diversity in experience? We don’t value that.

We pretend that in this country, anyone can be anything. With every year that passes, that is becoming more true. Being black or a woman is no longer the disqualifying factor that it once was. You can be now be on the Supreme Court whether you are black, white, male, female, rich or poor.

Just be those things AND be a Harvard alum.

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