U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan told an Arizona audience Wednesday that the high court lacks diversity — too many of them are happily ensconced in the nation’s coastal enclaves.
“I think more than gender, race, or ethnicity it really does have to do with this kind of coastal perspective,” Kagan said of the Court to a crowd at the University of Arizona, according to the Associated Press.
All of the justices are from a coastal state, and four are from the New York City area.
Kagan and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor are each from New York City (as was the late Justice Antonin Scalia.) Justice Samuel Alito was born and raised in New Jersey. Justice Stephen Breyer and Justice Anthony Kennedy are both from California. Justice Clarence Thomas is a scion of Georgia’s littoral lowlands.
Chief Justice John Roberts may be the only exception to the general rule. He is a native of Buffalo, New York who relocated to Indiana in his childhood. (RELATED: Supreme Court Turns Down North Carolina’s Request To Enforce Voting Restrictions Law)
Indeed, elite institutions and redoubts of coastal privilege enjoy wildly disproportionate representation on the Supreme Court. All of the justices attended either Harvard or Yale Law School.
The last two justices not matriculated at those institutions were Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, both of whom went to Stanford Law School. Breyer married into the British aristocracy while studying at Oxford — he is the son-in-law of John Hugh Hare, 1st Viscount Blakenham. All were federal appellate judges before ascending to the high court, save Kagan, who served as U.S. Solicitor General.
Kagan acknowledged that a patrician panel colors the public’s perception of the Court.
“People look at an institution and they see people who are like them, who share their experiences, who they imagine share their set of values, and that’s a sort of natural thing and they feel more comfortable if that occurs,” she said.
In dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case which legalized same-sex marriage across the country, Scalia had this to say on the matter:
Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count).
Correction: This piece was updated to reflect the accurate academic enrollment of the justices.
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