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Want A Supreme Court Seat? Going To Harvard Or Yale Helps

Publication Date: 
May 13, 2010
Karen Sloan

Professor Jeffrey Fisher is quoted in this article on elitism when it comes to the alma maters of U.S. Supreme Court justices. Karen Sloan of filed this story:

Want a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court? An elite law degree will help.

If nominee Elena Kagan is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the nine-member body will be made up entirely of judges educated at either Harvard Law School or Yale Law School -- an unusually homogenous group as far as educational background, according to several law professors. (Ruth Bader Ginsburg started law school at Harvard, but transferred to Columbia Law School -- firmly within the Ivy League -- when her husband took a job in New York.)

While legal academics agreed that it is unusual to have so many Harvard and Yale graduates on the court at the same time, there was no consensus as to what that means. Some professors expressed concern that a stable of judges with nearly identical educational backgrounds would narrow the Court's perspective. Others dismissed the situation as a fluke, reflecting only that those schools produce talented and driven lawyers.


"All things being equal, it would be nice to have justices from a few other law schools to show there is a good cross-section," said Jeffrey Fisher, a professor at Stanford Law School. He noted that postgraduate experience is a more important criterion than alma mater for picking a Supreme Court nominee. "But Stanford has had justices in the past, and I assume we will again in the future. The people who went to top law schools will get the top jobs. It seems to be a bit of an accident right now that there are only two schools represented."