When liberals talk about diversity what they mean is diversity of race and gender. Well, they don’t actually mean quite that either. For example, the Madison school board has been touted by liberals as the most diverse in history, yet six of the seven members are women and there are no white men on the board. Doesn’t seem all that diverse to me, but then again the liberal definition of diversity is ‘no white guys.’
What liberals most definitely do not mean when they talk about diversity is differences in points of view. For example, Justices Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett do not count toward the diversity of the Supreme Court because they don’t have the correct ideology. They might as well just be white guys.
Justice Stephen Breyer is problematic because he was mostly “diverse” (that is to say liberal) in his decisions, but he is also an old white man. He was not the complete package. Pres. Joe Biden now promises that complete package in a storm of intersectionality: a Black woman liberal justice.
In any event, all that throat-clearing aside, I’m for it. I’m basically a liberal myself (go ahead and argue the point if you’d like) and I agree it’s time we had a Black woman on the court. I thought it was a mistake for Biden to announce the race and gender of his nominee before he actually announced the name of the nominee, but that’s just the grumpy old white guy in me again I guess.
I’m for diversity, but what’s diverse about a court of nine justices where eight of them went to Harvard or Yale? What’s diverse about a court in which all the members had similar silk stocking legal careers? What’s diverse about a court where most of its members grew up in major metro areas — particularly at a time when the urban-rural divide in our country is more pronounced then ever? If you grew up in the Bronx and went to Princeton and Yale, how well can you understand rural Kansas, no matter how smart you are?
If Biden appoints the leading candidate, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, yes, she will be the first Black woman on the court, but she’ll also be just another “privileged” Ivy League lawyer who went to all the finest schools… alright Miss Lonely. (Sorry, got carried away there.) Biden will have achieved the kind of trivial diversity that satisfies liberal elites while actually contributing to the substantive homogeneity of the court.
As I’ve written before, his best choice is Judge J. Michelle Childs, who truly does have a diverse background. She would bring an education and life experience to the court that is lacking right now.
I thought that University of Tennessee law school professor Benjamin Barton got this point across quite well in an oped that he wrote for the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. I’ve taken the liberty of pasting it below.
If President Biden makes good on his promise to nominate a black female justice, the Supreme Court will be more diverse than ever in terms of race and sex. But in another sense, the court has become increasingly homogeneous. Recent justices have come from remarkably similar backgrounds—and the president’s reported front-runner, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, would fit right in.
Judge Jackson grew up in a major metropolitan area, and her father was a lawyer. She would be the fifth sitting justice to fit that profile. She earned both her bachelor’s and law degrees at Harvard and would be the seventh justice with an Ivy League undergraduate degree and the eighth graduate of Harvard or Yale law school.
She clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer and would be the sixth justice to have served as a Supreme Court clerk. Two of her prospective colleagues, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, likewise succeeded the justices for whom they clerked. After clerking, Judge Jackson worked at an elite Washington law firm focusing on appellate litigation, as did five other current justices. She has served as a federal appellate judge, like every other justice but Elena Kagan, and would be the fourth justice from the District of Columbia Circuit.
She did serve as a federal district judge (Sonia Sotomayor is the only current justice with that experience), on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and as a public defender. Yet on the whole, her experiences from Harvard on greatly resemble those of the justices already on the bench. She’s extremely well qualified in the conventional terms—achievement in elite academic and legal competitions, But is that all that matters?
Studies consistently establish that more experientially diverse decision-making bodies tend to avoid groupthink, consider different and more innovative approaches, and then reach better decisions. Given that every justice is already a lawyer, it makes sense to try to diversify across other educational, geographic and experiential axes. This was the case historically, as Harvard graduates shared the bench with former politicians, law professors and even autodidacts with no formal education.
Mr. Biden may want to look closely at another name reportedly on his short list: Judge J. Michelle Childs. She’s a product of the Columbia, S.C., public school system who earned a scholarship to the University of South Florida and got her law degree at the University of South Carolina—both public institutions. She made partner at a Columbia law firm practicing labor and employment law and has worked in state government and served as a state and federal trial judge. Both she and Judge Jackson are highly qualified to serve on the court, but in terms of sheer diversity, Judge Childs has an advantage.
Welcome to the 348th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!