Several recent articles have been published about the parochial character of the members of the United States Supreme Court. The themes of these articles have centered around political orientation (conservative vs. liberal), religion, and the fact that there are no longer any WASPs (white, anglo-saxon protestants) on the court. Historically, the entire Court was composed of WASPs.
These factors don’t concern me as much as the extraordinary concentration of the Court in terms of geographical background and education of its members. Let’s briefly look at its members:
1. Roberts-Harvard Law School; Harvard undergraduate; New York native
2. Alito-Yale Law School: Princeton undergraduate; New Jersey native
3. Scalia-Harvard Law School; Georgetown undergraduate; New Jersey native
4. Kennedy-Harvard Law School; Stanford undergraduate; California native
5. Breyer-Harvard Law School; Stanford undergraduate; California native
6. Ginsberg- Columbia Law School (transferred from Harvard Law); Cornell undergraduate; New York native
7. Thomas-Yale Law School; Holy Cross undergraduate; Georgia native
8. Sotomayor-Yale Law School: Princeton undergraduate; New York native
9. Kagan [pending]- Harvard Law School; Princeton undergraduate; New York native
As you can see, only one out of the nine justices graduated from a law school other than Harvard or Yale. And six out of the nine are from either New York or New Jersey. I believe that Harvard and Yale have excellent schools of law. Plus as someone born and raised in New York, I have an affinity for the Northeast.
But aren’t there other law schools of high caliber which produce myriads of legal scholars? Why aren’t there any Justices from outstanding public universities such as The University of Texas, or The University of Virginia, The University of Michigan or The University of Florida? In fact every Justice on our Supreme Court went to a private undergraduate and private law school. Talk about parochial! I find it hard to believe that people, no matter how brilliant they are, are not influenced by the elite academic surroundings they experienced during their formative years.
I don’t think that any of these Justices have walked in the shoes of the typical millionaire next door. Most never owned a business; most never took entreprenurial risks, and most never sweated trying to” make payroll.” Also, none of them attended a public college or university as most millionaires next doors have. And, as Robert, a millionaire from Sand Spring, OK, told me. . .” you’ve got to have horse sense. . . you get a lot of it when you walk the floors at night as most business owners have done wondering if you and your family are going to survive.”
I study geographic differences among our population (especially the affluent). I mentioned in Stop Acting Rich that the Midwest followed by the South produces a disproportionate share of the millionaire next door types. No midwesterner serves on our Supreme Court. And only one, Justice Thomas, is from the South.
The elitist press based in New York and Washington has historically sensationalized the differences among the Justices along the lines of political orientation, gender, and religion. I call it “boiler plate.” When is it going to open its eyes to the fact that most of America’s qualified and successful people were born, raised and educated outside the Northeast corridor?
6 thoughts on “The Millionaire Next Door – Not on the Supreme Court”
Not long ago in a Vanity Fair article I read about how Justice Stevens was requesting higher salaries for the justices–which is in fact quite high, in addition to a very high pension, in order for him to have a more comfortable life on the East coast for his family (private school tuition, etc). Another source has discussed how Justice Sotomayer has very little personal savings and some outstanding bills. I realize both these people have lived on the East Coast (and New York City) which can have a very high cost of living, but it is interesting none-the-less. Will future Justices have outstanding school loans from their years at these expensive private graduate schools as well?
People from the midwest have been asking these questions for years!!!
I agree with much of this but the problem is that it shouldn’t matter. It should not matter whether a justice understands a certain type of person.
The conservatives on the Court were criticized for not understanding what it is like to be a discriminated-against woman in the wake of the Ledbetter case, but in fact, their decision was irrespective of that: it was based on their judgment that the law did not allow her to sue, no matter whether they understood her or not.
Now, you might say “that’s a fine principle, but it ignores reality.” But I think reality happens according to our expectations, and I think expecting our Court to have this type of experience or that contributes directly to our rule-of-man system that has been slowly destroying the rule-by-law system we need to protect liberty and provide justice.
My two cents …
you are right on the money sir
Great Point Dr. Stanley!
As an attorney in private practice, I have first hand experience working with lawyers and judges who attended the most prestigious law schools and others that went to lesser known schools. Although acedemic training is obviously important, a person’s life and work experience has a huge influence on the decisions they make as judges. I agree that having supreme court justices with a more diverse educational, geographic, and work background would improve our judicial system.
There is no law school or geographic region in the country that has a monopoly on teaching good judgment.
Wow! Am I the only one who finds that lack of diversity very alarming? What about the constant jawboning on the importance of diversity? Perhaps “Do as we say, not as we do” should be the gov’t motto. No wonder they have never been able to balance a budget, and keep racing headlong toward soaking “the rich” not understanding they are killing small business and entrepreneurship -the geese laying golden eggs. (Full disclosure – I live in the NYC area, but am neither business owner, nor anywhere near Obama’s “rich” – just have common sense and a functioning mind.