The Harvard-Yalification Of The Supreme Court If Elena Kagan is confirmed to a seat on the Supreme Court, it will lead to an Ivy League clean sweep: Each of the justices will have attended law school at either Harvard or Yale. But should a diploma from one of the country's top two law schools be a prerequisite for a job on the court?
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The Harvard-Yalification Of The Supreme Court

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The Harvard-Yalification Of The Supreme Court

The Harvard-Yalification Of The Supreme Court

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REBECCA ROBERTS, Host:

NPR's Larry Abramson reports.

LARRY ABRAMSON: Dan Farber teaches at the seventh-best law school, also known as Berkeley Law.

DAN FARBER: It does seem kind of weird, for example, that Stanford, which is, you know, ranked right up there with Harvard and Yale, doesn't have now any of that representation.

ABRAMSON: Author Nicholas Lemann says the Harvard-Yalification of the court marks a resurgent elitism in American society.

NICHOLAS LEMANN: It really represents an unstated but quite powerful consensus that there's a narrow channel through which you have to pass to be a Supreme Court justice.

ABRAMSON: Lemann says that the Kagan nomination points to a growing lack of diversity when it comes to background and experience. He says this cautious strategy dictates:

LEMANN: If they haven't done certain things by the time they're 25 or 30, game over.

ABRAMSON: Others look at the Harvard-Yale nexus and say: So what? Professor Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law says your education resume just isn't that important in the final analysis.

PAMELA KARLAN: I don't think anybody is nominated for the Supreme Court because of what they did as a child.

ABRAMSON: Elena Kagan graduated from Harvard way back in 1986, although since then she's served as law school dean there from 2003 to 2009. So, her ties to that school are awfully strong. Still, Pam Karlan says, we shouldn't make too much of what is essentially a coincidence.

KARLAN: Graduates of elite universities do all sorts of things in their professional careers, just as graduates of not particularly selective law schools often go on to elite positions.

ABRAMSON: Justice Antonin Scalia, Harvard Class of 1960, admitted as much in an address last year when he said his favorite court clerk was Jeff Sutton, whom he inherited from Justice Lewis Powell.

ANTONIN SCALIA: Well, I wouldn't have hired Jeff Sutton, for God's sake, he went to Ohio State.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ABRAMSON: Apparently, they are not. Larry Abramson, NPR News.

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