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The Harvard-Yalification Of The Supreme Court

Publication Date: 
May 16, 2010
National Public Radio - Weekend Edition
Larry Abramson

Professor Pamela Karlan is quoted on the so-called "Harvard-Yale hegemony" of the U.S. Supreme Court. Larry Abramson of NPR's Weekend Edition reports:

If Elena Kagan is confirmed to a seat on the Supreme Court, it will lead to an Ivy League clean sweep: Each of the justices will have attended law school at either Harvard or Yale.

It raises the question: Should a diploma from one of the top two law schools in the country be a prerequisite for a job on the high court?

It's not as if the rise of the Harvard-Yale hegemony is new in Washington. Each of the last four presidents passed through those two institutions, as well.

But Kagan would replace Justice John Paul Stevens, who attended Northwestern University's law school, ranked No. 11 by U.S. News & World Report. And the half-nelson grip on entry to the high court by top-ranked Yale and Harvard is a little odd to some observers, especially those from different time zones.


Others look at the Harvard-Yale nexus and say: So what? Stanford Law professor Pamela Karlan says that an education resume just isn't that important in the final analysis.

"I don't think anybody is nominated to the Supreme Court because of what they did as a child," Karlan says.

Kagan graduated from Harvard nearly 25 years ago, although because she served as law school dean there from 2003 to 2009, her ties to the school are awfully strong. Still, Karlan says, we shouldn't make too much of what is essentially a coincidence.

"Graduates of elite universities do all sorts of things in their professional careers, just as graduates of not particularly selective law schools often go on to elite positions," Karlan says.