Monday, September 5, 2016

On the lack of geographic (and other) diversity on the U.S. Supreme Court

Adam Liptak writes in the New York Times today about the "striking lack of diversity" among the eight justices who currently comprise the U.S. Supreme Court.  The relative lack of geographic and religious diversity are noted in particular, but the lack of cultural diversity is suggested by implication, as where Justice Kagan is quoted as mentioning that the Court may suffer a "coastal perspective."  The only Supreme Court justice not from one of the coasts is Justice John Roberts, who grew up in Indiana.  Judge Anthony Kennedy is the only justice from west of the Mississippi River.  He grew up in Sacramento, California.  
In remarks last week in Arizona and Colorado, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan ... talk[ed] about how a new colleague could reinforce or disrupt a court that is in some ways exceptionally homogeneous. 
“We’re not as diverse as some would like in many important characteristics — educational institutions, religion, places where we come from,” Justice Sotomayor said on Thursday at a judicial conference here.
Both Sotomayor and Kagan opined that "more diversity on the court would bolster public confidence in its work."  Liptak quotes Justice Kagan:
People look at an institution and they see people who are like them, who share their experiences, who they imagine share their set of values, and that’s a sort of natural thing and they feel more comfortable if that occurs.
* * * 
 It’s obviously true that people bring their backgrounds and experiences to the job in some sense.
I have previously mused on the lack of geographic diversity on the court--in particular the lack of a rural perspective--here, here and here.   

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