Next week should bring some long-anticipated news when President Trump reveals his nominee to the Supreme Court. His choice will surely spark a fight with Democrats, but ultimately Senate Republicans should be able to push through a conservative replacement for the conservative Antonin Scalia.
With all the focus on the nominee’s ideological positions, I thought it was worth noting each of the three people rumored to be on the short list would add an element of diversity to the court. Just not in the way we are used to talking about it.
Consider these facts about the eight justices currently on the bench:
- Four were born in the New York City metro area; another in upstate New York; and two in Northern California. Only Clarence Thomas (born in Pin Point, Georgia, near Savannah) hails from elsewhere. The vast swath of America between the coasts is unrepresented.
- Five justices attended law school at Harvard, three at Yale. All other law schools combined have produced none of the current justices.
- The justices’ undergrad careers were barely more diverse. Five were educated in the Ivy League (Princeton three, Harvard one, Cornell one). Two went to Stanford, and one to Holy Cross. None attended a state school.
Each of the three people reportedly on the short list would change those figures in one way or another:
- Neil Gorsuch is another Ivy League undergrad (Columbia) and Harvard Law product, but he was born in, and still works in, Denver.
- Thomas Hardiman is another East Coaster (Massachusetts), but he attended Notre Dame for undergrad and Georgetown for law school.
- William Pryor would be something of a trifecta: born in Mobile, Alabama; undergrad at a state school (what is now known as the University of Louisiana, Monroe); law school at Tulane University. On a side note, Pryor’s selection would add a bit of local intrigue, as Trump would then need to choose a replacement for him on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here in Atlanta.
This isn’t meant as anti-elitism. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have justices from Harvard and Yale law schools; I’m saying we shouldn’t only have justices from Harvard and Yale law schools. If we’re going to put a value on having a variety of backgrounds and life experiences in institutions such as the Supreme Court, these factors are well worth considering.