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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Thoughts on the Supreme Court

It's a little surprising that none of the justices retired from the U.S. Supreme Court in the last four years. Dan Johnson-Weinberger raises an interesting question on that very topic after he attended a bar luncheon where Justice John Paul Stevens was the honored guest. I don't know the answer to the question, but it raises an interesting theory:

If they wait until someone won in 2004, then they limit the damage from Bush v. Gore and the Court regains some of its lost legitimacy.

Health issues aside, if you look at just their ages, it's a pretty safe bet that one or more will retire in the next four years. Seating a Supreme Court judge is one of the most important duties a president faces. As such, it's something everyone should think about as they go to vote.

Following is a quick rundown in chronological order by year of birth of who's who on the court and how they got there:

  • John Paul Stevens was born in 1920. Born and raised in Chicago, he went to the University of Chicago for undergrad and got his law degree from Northwestern in 1947. He was appointed to the Court by President Gerald R. Ford in 1975.
  • William H. Rehnquist, was born in 1924. He got his law degree from Stanford Law School in 1952. He was appointed to the Court in 1971 by President Richard M. Nixon. He is the only sitting justice who was on the original Roe v. Wade court (1973).
  • Sandra Day O'Connor was born in 1930. She got her law degree from Stanford in 1952. She was appointed to the Court in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan.
  • Ruth Bader Ginsberg was born in 1933. She started out at Harvard Law and later transferred to Columbia where she got her law degree. She was appointed to the Court in 1993 by President William Jefferson Clinton.
  • Anthony Kennedy was born in 1936. He got his law degree from Stanford in 1958. He was appointed to the Court President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
  • Antonin Scalia was born in 1936. He got his degree from Harvard Law in 1960. He was appointed to the Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986.
  • Steven Breyer was born in 1938. Another Harvard Law grad. He was appointed to the Court by William Jefferson Clinton in 1994.
  • David Souter was born in 1939. Yet another Harvard Law graduate. He was appointed to the Court by President George Herbert Walker Bush in 1990.
  • Clarence Thomas was born in 1948. The only Yale Law School grad. Everyone probably remembers the process he went through to get seated on the Court. In 1991 he was appointed to the Court by George Herbert Walker Bush.

Jimmy Carter made no appointments to the Supreme Court, making Clinton the only Democrat to have seated any judges on the current bench.

Three good resources for biographical information on the judges:

Posted by Marie at September 19, 2004 2:05 AM