Why the Supreme Court needs more diversity

By Shankari Sureshbabu, Columnist

At a University composed of roughly 40,000 students from across the globe, diversity is everywhere around us. It makes us see different perspectives and promotes cooperation and compromise. It forces us to think outside the box and understand the situations of others.

In the Supreme Court, diverse thought is vital; however, with nine justices of largely similar educational, religious and cultural backgrounds, there doesn’t seem to be much room for diversity.

When President Barack Obama appointed Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, he was applauded for taking a progressive step forward. Sotomayor is the third female and the first-ever Latina justice on the Supreme Court and was expected to bring the cultural variety the Supreme Court was lacking. Flash forward to the present and it is Sotomayor who’s calling for more diversity.

“I, for one, do think there is a disadvantage from having (five) Catholics, three Jews, (and) everyone from an Ivy League school (on the court),” Sotomayor said last Friday at a talk at Brooklyn Law School. “A different perspective can permit you to more fully understand the arguments that are before you and help you articulate your position in a way that everyone will understand.” 

Recently, Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat in the Court. Although Garland is definitely qualified, the President has been getting backlash for nominating another white man.

Garland is a white, Jewish male from Chicago who graduated from Harvard Law. Ostensibly, it doesn’t seem like his appointment would add the diversity that Sotomayor would like to see.

Rushing to the defense of his nomination, Obama said, “Yeah, he’s a white guy, but he’s a really outstanding jurist.”

He also mentioned that it’s not always possible to get a perfect cross section of America’s intensely different demographics, although it would be nice, saying,“At no point did I say, ‘Oh, you know what? You know, I need a black lesbian, you know, from Skokie, in that slot. Can you find me one?”

Although it’s challenging to find a justice who can work with Obama’s agenda and be approved by Senate Republicans, it’s also unfortunate that we are still arguing about diversity this far into our country’s history. In a nation that prides itself as the melting pot of cultures with open doors to people of all races and religions, it’s ridiculous that women and minorities still have to claw their way into positions of political power.

This is not to question Garland’s credentials in the slightest; he is very capable. However, so are Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, Judge Sri Srinivasan and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Loretta E. Lynch, in addition to being a black female in a white, male dominated industry, also has a background in blue collar crime such as narcotics, violent crimes, and high-profile civil rights cases. This was something else that Sotomayor touched on, as all of the justices on the court currently have backgrounds focused in white collar crime. Although the Supreme Court generally doesn’t deal with blue collar crime, this change in background might bring a new perspective to the Court.

Sri Srinivasan, who many expected Obama to nominate to the Court, would be the first Indian Justice, first Hindu justice and the sixth immigrant on the Court. He studied at Stanford and has been called the “Anti-Scalia.” Many anticipated his nomination on the grounds of his impressive credentials, bipartisan appeal, and obvious racial diversity. 

Garland will undoubtedly affect many of the defining cases of the future with his centrist ideals, but adding diversity to the Court would add new voices and perspectives that truly represent the diverse American people.The Next Supreme Court Justice should shape America in ways that another white guy can’t.

Shankari is a freshman in DGS.

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