President Obama has chosen Judge Merrick Garland to potentially succeed Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that will not add much diversity to the bench if confirmed.
Garland, 63, is the current chief justice for the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which acts as a sort of training ground for future Supreme Court justices.
“The D.C. Circuit has long operated as a Supreme Court farm team (John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg played their AAA ball there),” according to New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Toobin.
Prior to his appointment to the appeals court, Garland clerked for Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. and served as a federal prosecutor for the Department of Justice. As Washington Post reporter Radley Balko notes, these are typical steps towards the Supreme Court.
Aside from his professional qualifications, Garland’s personal details are similar to many of the sitting Supreme Court justices.
He is Jewish, and will join three other Jewish justices. At 63 years old, he will be on the young end of the court, but not the youngest (Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are 61 and 55, respectively).
Like the justice he would be replacing, Garland is a Harvard Law School alumnus, graduating magna cum laude. If he is confirmed, the majority of the Supreme Court — five justices — will have law degrees from Harvard, and all the justices will have Ivy League law degrees.
Garland also has his undergraduate degree from Harvard, as does Chief Justice John Roberts.
The lack of diversity on the Supreme Court was lamented by Scalia in his dissent to same-sex marriage decision Obergefell v. Hodges. Via FiveThirtyEight:
Take, for example, this Court, which consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. 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). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination.
While Garland will not add diversity to the court based on his education or religious background, he does bring something new based on where he grew up. Like the president, Garland is from Chicago, and will bring something new to a court dominated by justices from America’s East and West coasts.
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