One Thing Trump Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Won’t Change Is the Supreme Court’s Harvard-Yale Monopoly
Brett Kavanaugh is officially President Trump’s Supreme Court Justice nominee, and he’s a fairly conventional pick for a very unconventional president.
Tather than pivoting away from the establishment as he has sought to do in other political matters, Trump has chosen a nominee that has Ivy League establishment credentials—like every other Justice currently on the bench.
Nine of the nine Justices, including outgoing Justice Kennedy, received their law degree from an Ivy League school. Five of the Justices went to Harvard, three to Yale, and Justice Ginsburg attended Harvard before transferring to and graduating from Columbia Law School. Kavanaugh, who received his degree from Yale Law, will continue this trend, albeit rebalancing the distribution between Harvard and Yale on the bench.
This is not simply a trend of the current Supreme Court bench: Every Supreme Court Justice appointed since the ‘80s has attended an Ivy League law school, and all of them went to Harvard or Yale—with the exception of Justice Ginsburg.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was appointed by then-President Reagan in 1981, received her law degree from Stanford University. She was the last Justice appointed who did not go to an Ivy League school, and was also the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. She retired in 2006.
Justice William Rehnquist who served on the Supreme Court from 1972 until his death in 2005, also received his law degree from Stanford University. And Justice John Paul Stevens, who served from 1975 until his retirement in 2010, graduated from Northwestern University School of Law.
Of the 114 Justices who have served on the Supreme Court to date, more than half have attended an Ivy League school at the undergraduate, graduate, or law school level. Between 1950 and 2009, 70% of the Justices fell into this category.
While Harvard and Yale (and Columbia) are undoubtedly some of the most well-regarded and prestigious universities in the country, many have expressed concern about the homogeneity of the Court’s makeup.
Dan Glickman, the Vice President of the Aspen Institute and a former Congressman and Secretary of Agriculture, summed up the critical view in a 2016 article:
“When an individual is able to, through force of intellect, matriculate and excel at Harvard or Yale Law they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt they are among the top minds in America’s legal community. However, there is a certain cloistered nature to joining this elite community. People of this pedigree often live in a world that does not necessarily parallel the life experiences of most Americans. And that is where more diversity is needed.”