Normally, when a person is nominated for the Supreme Court I examine his or her writings before commenting on the nomination. But I was on leave when President Trump nominated Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court, so I’m not going to assess her judicial ability.
However, it is obvious that the president’s nomination of Barrett, like his nomination of Neil Gorsuch, adds diversity to the bench that it previously lacked.
No, I’m not referring to gender or ethnic diversity. I’m referring to more basic kinds: viewpoint and experience.
A lawyer’s viewpoint is shaped significantly by where he or she grew up, was educated, and practiced law. When President Trump took office, all justices were from the East Coast other than one from California (Kennedy). “Flyover country” was locked out.
Similarly, every Supreme Court justice had attended Harvard or Yale Law Schools. (Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s degree was from Columbia, but she, too, attended Harvard for a time.) In subtle but important ways, the Harvard-Yale duopoly diminished viewpoints from the other 200+ American law schools.
Trump’s appointment of Brett Kavanaugh was fairly conventional (D.C. bred, Yale educated). And Neil Gorsuch attended Harvard. But Gorsuch is a Coloradan, and in his short tenure, he has demonstrated how a Westerner can contribute insights that coastal justices do not have. Illustrative is his concurring opinion in a case involving Indian treaty rights.
In Justice Barrett we have a two-fer. She offers geographic diversity: She grew up in Louisiana and was educated and worked (mostly) in Indiana. And she offers educational diversity: She was first in her class at the well-regarded Notre Dame Law School.
Whatever your opinion of the president, we should be grateful to him for placing a broader range of views on the highest court in the land.
As I predicted (accurately, it turns out) after the Kavanaugh nomination, the court will not be revolutionized by any one or two appointments. But the presence of non-Ivy Leaguers, Mid-Westerners, and Westerners on the bench will improve the quality of its product.
The next president should continue the process.
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- The significance of the Amy Coney Barrett appointment - October 29, 2020