Speed Reads

The death of Scalia

Justice Antonin Scalia wanted more diversity on the Supreme Court, according to 2015 opinion

With Justice Antonin Scalia's sudden, unexpected death, the Supreme Court has one Hispanic female, two other female justices, one black male, and four white men — which counts as pretty diverse for a Supreme Court in many ways. Scalia obviously can't give his opinion about who should replace him now, but in a dissent to last June's ruling affirming the right to same-sex marriage, the late justice left some clues, Adam Liptak notes at The New York Times. And what Scalia wanted was more diversity — just not in the way that President Obama might think about the word.

The Supreme Court (until Scalia's death) "consists of only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School," Scalia wrote. Since Justice John Paul Stevens, a Protestant, retired in 2010, the court includes "not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination," he added. (Scalia was Catholic, along with five other justices; the other three are Jewish.) Also, he noted, "four of the nine are natives of New York City," including himself, two were born in California, and only one — Indiana native Chief Justice John Roberts — is not from the East or West Coast.

Liptak adds that all but one of the justices served on a U.S. federal court of appeals — until the mid-1900s, most justices weren't sitting judges when elevated to the high court — and none had every run for public office or served on a state court. "Obama will consider many factors in deciding on the next nominee," Liptak writes. "He will no doubt nominate someone to the left of Justice Scalia. But he may want to listen to the departed justice's plea to broaden the court's profile." You can read Liptak's analysis at The New York Times.