Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Diversity and the Supreme Court

As widely reported President Obama has nominated Elena Kagan to replace Justice Stevens on the Supreme Court of the United States (or SCOTUS). Much ink has been spilled on your qualifications, her point of view (Democrat, but too much or too little?), her gender, and her religious affiliation (with her on the court we'd have 3 Jews and 6 Catholics).

However, one point that has been little discussed is the lack of geographical diversity on the court. With Ms. Kagan's appointment we have 4 justices from NYC, 1 from New Jersey, 2 from California. 1 from Georgia, and one from Indiana. That's 8 justices growing up within 50 miles of the ocean. This isn't necessarily bad, but it does highlight a true diversity "issue." Nine justices can't represent the whole country, but it's a worrying trend when justices aren't familiar with rural areas, don't really know what a starry night looks like, and have no experience with life in the middle of the country.

For some interesting analysis read David Brooks, who highlights the problem of our nominating incentives. I'm also with Matthew Yglesias who argues that we should change the lifetime appointment to 15 years.  

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