Concerned that the current Supreme Court has too many Ivy League easterners in its ranks, a noted judicial scholar and former Justice Department official is calling on Congress to reject new nominees who don't bring greater geographic and background diversity to the Court.
University of Virginia professor emeritus Daniel Meador (pictured below) yesterday sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.) asserting that "In some important respects, the current membership is the least diverse in the Court’s history, a situation that is unhealthy for the governance of the country, both politically and jurisprudentially." All but one of the current justices (Californian Anthony Kennedy) is from the east, he noted, and all are from Ivy League law schools. None has experience as a legislator or in elective office of any kind, he added. "This is a striking lack of diversity in geographical origin, educational background, previous life experience, especially lacking in the broader world of governance," Meador wrote. The BLT was shown a copy of Meador's letter.
"In a democratic society of transcontinental dimensions with 300 million people and nearly 200 law schools, the current situation badly needs correcting," Meador wrote to Leahy. "An institution that makes decisions as important as the Supreme Court does, affecting the lives of all Americans, needs to be more reflective of the nation as a whole and to have among its decision makers persons of more varied backgrounds and of broader experiences in public life."
He urged Leahy to press for passage of a resolution by the Judiciary Committee urging presidents to select future nominees from outside the current mold. Meador's resolution would go even further, pledging that, "until the current imbalance is corrected, The Committee on the Judiciary will not look favorably on nominees whose backgrounds and experiences depart significantly from the criteria specified here, all to the end that a desirable balance and diversification be restored to the Supreme Court in the interest of having wise and informed judgments brought to bear on the Court’s decisions concerning the meaning of the Constitution and laws of the United States."
Meador is an Alabaman who clerked for the late Justice Hugo Black, whose previous experience was as a senator from that state. An assistant attorney general in the Jimmy Carter administration, Meador has spend much of his career studying and seeking improvements in the administration of justice.
Recent presidents have often spoken of seeking nominees with more political experience and diverse geographic backgrounds. Leahy himself has urged presidents to look "outside the judicial monastery," but for perceived political or strategic reasons, presidents revert to recent practice. Without judicial experience on her resume Elena Kagan, the latest nominee, was not from the "judicial monastery" -- though she certainly lived nearby -- and Republicans criticized her for that deficit.
We have calls into Meador and to Leahy seeking further comment.