Schooling the Supreme Court
48 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2013 Last revised: 22 Mar 2016
Date Written: July 26, 2015
Supreme Court Justices' uniform professional backgrounds have drawn increasing criticism. Yet it is unclear how diverse professional training would affect the Court's decisions. This Article offers the first empirical analysis of how Justices with diverse professional training vote: It examines a unique period when Justices with formal legal education sat with Justices who entered the profession by reading the law alone.
The study finds that Justices' levels of agreement and politically independent voting vary significantly according to their professional training. In cases which divided the Court, Justices who shared the benefit of formal legal education (1) voted together more often and (2) voted more independently of their appointing presidents' ideologies than Justices without this background.
These findings substantially qualify earlier views on the desirability of Justices without formal legal education. Diversity in professional training is consistent with calls for a more politically responsive Court. It does not support arguments for an optimally diverse group of decisionmakers, however, unless one is also willing to accept diminished political independence that has been shown to accompany diverse professional training.
Keywords: Supreme Court appointments, diversity, value of legal education, empirical, judicial politics
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