“Candidate X went to Harvard Law School”

Gautham Nagesh Contributor
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One thing that should be banned: citing someone’s law school as evidence they are qualified for the Supreme Court. The implicit argument being that candidates from Harvard or Yale are somehow better suited to making the big decisions than folks from more humble beginnings. Personally I don’t get why a person’s undergraduate GPA and ability to take standardized tests should be weighed along with the entirety of their careers and the choices they’ve made as adults. But then again I’m not a lawyer.

In what other field are people chosen for the very top job based on criteria that should rightly only be considered when they are first hired? If two people have both been practicing law or otherwise occupied in a career for the past 30 years, should we really judge them for achievements that mostly took place before they attained a legal drinking age? Let’s be serious. This is like picking the mayor based on who had the highest GPA in high school.

If Ivy League admissions officers are indeed the best forecasters of future worth, then why bother having elections at all? Why not have the folks in Cambridge hand-pick our nation’s leaders based on resumes and professional qualifications. Is Elena Kagan really more impressive than Diane Wood because the former went to Harvard and the latter to Texas? Do we assume Granholm is smarter than Janet Napolitano?

Honestly, I have no bias against people that go to fancy law schools. Chances are by doing so they’ve set themselves up for long and successful careers in which they will have every networking and social advantage, enabling them to pursue all of their loftiest ambitions. But assuming they’ve done so, since their names are being mentioned among the candidates for the Court, why on Earth would give them a boost over someone who has managed to achieve similar status without the same advantages?

If anything the latter is more impressive. We are a nation of late bloomers, after all, a country that loves second chances. I for one am not inclined to favor a candidate simply because they spent they formative years in Cambridge rather than Columbus. It’s what you do with your life after law school that’s supposed to count. Sure Barack Obama went to Harvard Law School. But so did Jim Cramer and Alger Hiss. I’m not sure I’d want either of them deciding what is and isn’t legal in this country.