Opinion Brief

Will the Supreme Court really reflect America?

If Kagan is confirmed, she'll be the fourth New Yorker in a Catholic/Jewish, Ivy League–educated high court. Too imbalanced?

If Elena Kagan is confirmed to the Supreme Court, four of the nine justices will have grown up in New York — Kagan in Manhattan; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Brooklyn; Sonia Sotomayor, the Bronx; and Antonin Scalia, Queens. The court would also be entirely Ivy League–educated, and consist of three Jews and six Catholics. Can such a court represent the rest of America? (Watch Elena Kagan discuss her New York roots)

No. New York is unique: While this shouldn't matter to those who judge justices on their ability to "regard the law with utter neutrality," says Kathleen Parker in The Washington Post, such a court utterly fails Obama's "ordinary-people principle" — and so does Kagan. It's daft to pretend that the "cultural marinade" of the Upper West Side is "anything close to mainstream America."
"Elena Kagan is miles away from mainstream America"

Yes. New York is the "mainstream": Maybe justices who grew up in New York can't "really understand an American 'heartland'" of small, rural towns, says Ed Kilgore at FiveThirtyEight. The same could be said of the other 80 percent of Americans who live in metro areas. Besides, only 14 New Yorkers sat on the Supreme Court before this batch, a pretty shabby number for America's legal capital.
"Kagan, New York, and 'the Heartland'"

An east-coast bias is at work: For D.C. elitists, "California may as well be the moon — a place where shallow pseudo-intellectuals work on their tans," says Kitty Felde in the Southern California Public Radio's website. We're looking at a court with four New Yorkers, while the state that one in ten Americans call home will be represented by Anthony Kennedy alone.
"Elitism and east-coast bias on the Supreme Court"

It depends on your zip code: Any evidence of a "New York bloc" will definitely lie in the eye of the beholder, says Albany Law School professor Vincent Bonventre, quoted in The New York Times. A liberal ruling by "the three [New York] women and the Jewish guy" would "make complete sense to New Yorkers," but in "the South and the Bible Belt, people are going to say, 'They don't understand the rest of America.'"
"A New York bloc on the Supreme Court"

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