Supreme Court shouldn’t be covered in Ivy, 2 lawmakers say

Feb 1, 2022, 4:00 AM | Updated: 4:23 pm

Ivy League pedigrees and appellate court experience are two things broadly shared by justices currently on the Supreme Court. (AP Graphic)

(AP Graphic)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Enough already with the Supreme Court justices with Harvard and Yale degrees. That’s the message from one of Congress’ top Democrats to President Joe Biden, and a prominent Republican senator agrees.

Eight of the nine members of the current court went to law school at either Harvard or Yale. But it would be good if the person named to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer doesn’t have an Ivy League degree, according to Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Democrat, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican. The bipartisan message from the two South Carolina lawmakers neatly aligns with the background of the South Carolina judge they’ve praised as a good candidate to fill the seat.

Biden, a Democrat, has pledged to make history by nominating the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. Clyburn, Congress’ highest-ranking Black member, says Biden should be concerned about the court’s lack of educational diversity, too.

“We run the risk of creating an elite society,” said Clyburn, a graduate of South Carolina State University. “We’ve got to recognize that people come from all walks of life, and we ought not dismiss anyone because of that.”

Graham, a member of the Judiciary Committee, which will hold hearings for the eventual nominee, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he’d like to see the court “have a little more balance, some common sense on it. Everybody doesn’t have to be from Harvard and Yale. It’s OK to go to a public university and get your law degree.”

Clyburn is a particularly prominent voice in the debate over whom the nominee should be. At Biden’s lowest moment in the 2020 presidential campaign, it was Clyburn who suggested he pledge to name the first Black woman justice if given the opportunity as president. Biden’s ultimate promise and Clyburn’s endorsement helped Biden decisively win South Carolina’s primary. The win revived his campaign and helped propel him to the White House.

Clyburn has made clear his own first choice for the open seat: J. Michelle Childs. The 55-year-old federal judge got her law degree from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She also has a master’s degree from the university and another degree in law from Duke. Childs’ non-Ivy League education and her upbringing in a single-parent household would make her a justice more representative of Americans, Clyburn said. Graham called Childs “a fair-minded, highly gifted jurist.”

Other women frequently talked about as possible nominees are Ivy League graduates. Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court, graduated from Yale’s law school. Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal appeals court judge, went to Harvard.

Lawrence Baum, a professor emeritus at Ohio State who has studied the backgrounds of Supreme Court justices, said there’s been a gradual shift to nominees with more elite law school backgrounds. The fact that a nominee has attended a school “regarded as the best, or at least among the best,” might sway senators at the margins, he said. But going to a prestigious school can also connect a person with others who go on to politically important positions, he said, making them known in elite legal circles.

Judith Browne Dianis, the executive director of the Advancement Project, a racial justice organization, said the current nomination is “an opportunity for the legal profession to have more discussions about the term ‘qualified.'” Dianis said the qualifications that have been used in the past are “based on a career pathway that has been reserved for white men traditionally and some white women.” There are “very few people of color and Black people who have that pathway because there is a lot of discrimination that happens along the way,” she said.

While the overwhelming dominance of Harvard and Yale law degrees on the court is something of a modern phenomenon, about a third of all the justices who have sat on the court attended an Ivy League law school.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who went to Harvard as an undergraduate and Yale law school, said this week that the schools provide a good education and attract top talent, but he said that diversity of educational background can also benefit the judiciary. “I think, not that the top tier law schools are overrated, but they shouldn’t be the sole source, of members of the bench,” he said.

Education isn’t the only way in which the backgrounds of the current justices are similar. All but one of the current justices is a former federal appeals court judge. And six served as a law clerk to a justice, a highly coveted position that often sets young lawyers on the path to other high-profile posts.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina justice, has said diversity can play an important function.

“The advantage of diversity, whether it’s gender or race or ethnicity or even professional work, whatever the diversity represents, it gives people who don’t otherwise think there’s opportunity, it aspires them to believe there might be,” she said in 2019 at an event honoring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the court’s first female member.

Currently, the court is split 4-4 between Harvard and Yale law graduates. Breyer attended Harvard, as did Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch. Sotomayor and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh attended Yale.

The court’s newest member, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, is the outlier. Barrett, a graduate of Notre Dame’s law school, mentioned the fact at her 2020 confirmation hearing. “I am confident that Notre Dame could hold its own,” she said. “And maybe I could even teach them a thing or two about football.”

___

Associated Press reporters Padmananda Rama, Mary Clare Jalonick and Meg Kinnard contributed to this report. Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              Ivy League pedigrees and appellate court experience are two things broadly shared by justices currently on the Supreme Court. (AP Graphic)
            
              Ivy League pedigrees and appellate court experience are two things broadly shared by justices currently on the Supreme Court. (AP Graphic)
            
              Ivy League pedigrees and appellate court experience are two things broadly shared by justices currently on the Supreme Court. (AP Graphic)
            
              Ivy League pedigrees and appellate court experience are two things broadly shared by justices currently on the Supreme Court. (AP Graphic)
            
              Ivy League pedigrees and appellate court experience are two things broadly shared by justices currently on the Supreme Court. (AP Graphic)
            
              Ivy League pedigrees and appellate court experience are two things broadly shared by justices currently on the Supreme Court. (AP Graphic)
            
              Ivy League pedigrees and appellate court experience are two things broadly shared by justices currently on the Supreme Court. (AP Graphic)
            
              Ivy League pedigrees and appellate court experience are two things broadly shared by justices currently on the Supreme Court. (AP Graphic)
            
              Ivy League pedigrees and appellate court experience are two things broadly shared by justices currently on the Supreme Court. (AP Graphic)
            
              Ivy League pedigrees and appellate court experience are two things broadly shared by justices currently on the Supreme Court. (AP Graphic)
            
              FILE - Judge J. Michelle Childs, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to the U.S. District Court, listens during her nomination hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 16, 2010. President Joe Biden has already narrowed the field for his first U.S. Supreme Court pick. One potential nominee is Childs, currently a U.S. District Court Judge for Southern California, who has been nominated but not yet confirmed to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
            
              FILE - Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer holds up a copy of the United States Constitution as he announces his retirement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham say it would be good if the person named to replace retiring Breyer doesn’t have an Ivy League degree. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
            FILE - Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a news conference outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Thursday, April 22, 2021. Graham and Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn say it would be good if the person named to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer doesn't have an Ivy League degree. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

AP

Associated Press

Doctors alarmed as surge in RSV cases fills German hospitals

BERLIN (AP) — Intensive care doctors in Germany warned Thursday that hospital pediatric units in the country are stretched to breaking point in part due to rising cases of respiratory infections among infants. The intensive care association DIVI said the seasonal surge in respiratory syncytial virus cases and a shortage of nurses was causing a […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Poland says Kandinsky art sold in Germany comes from theft

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s culture authorities said Thursday a picture by Wassily Kandinsky that was auctioned in Germany for almost 390,000 euros ($404,000) belongs to Poland, where it was stolen in 1984. The authorities are threatening legal steps. Kandinsky’s 1928 watercolor “Untitled” was sold Thursday at the Grisebach auctioneers in Berlin. The price tag […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Aline Kominsky-Crumb, underground cartoonist, dies at 74

Aline Kominsky-Crumb, an American cartoonist known for her feminist themes and often brutally frank, highly personal and self-critical work, has died at the age of 74. Kominsky-Crumb, who was a close collaborator of her cartoonist husband, Robert Crumb, died of cancer Tuesday at their longtime home in France, said Alexander Wood, manager of the website […]
14 hours ago
FILE - A large homeless encampment is shown in Phoenix, Aug. 5, 2020. On Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, ...
Associated Press

ACLU sues city of Phoenix to stop sweeps of homeless camp

PHOENIX (AP) — The ACLU of Arizona says it is suing the city of Phoenix in order to block resumed sweeps of a huge homeless encampment downtown that they say has displaced people and destroyed identification documents, prescription medications and other belongings. The ACLU says it filed the complaint late Wednesday in the U.S. District […]
14 hours ago
FILE An oil tanker is moored at the Sheskharis complex, part of Chernomortransneft JSC, a subsidiar...
Associated Press

EU edges closer to $60-per-barrel Russian oil price cap

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union was edging closer to setting a $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil — a highly anticipated and complex political and economic maneuver designed to keep Russia’s supplies flowing into global markets while clamping down on President Vladimir Putin’s ability to fund his war in Ukraine. EU nations sought to […]
14 hours ago
Associated Press

Rat Attack: NYC seeks hands-on leader in anti-rodent fight

NEW YORK (AP) — Hate rats? Are you a “somewhat bloodthirsty” New Yorker with excellent communication skills and “a general aura of badassery”? Then you might have what it takes to be the city’s new rat czar. Mayor Eric Adams’ administration posted a job listing this week seeking someone to lead the city’s long-running battle […]
14 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Supreme Court shouldn’t be covered in Ivy, 2 lawmakers say