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The system isn’t “broken”: The Supreme Court has historically underrepresented minorities

The system isn’t “broken”: The Supreme Court has historically underrepresented minorities

The system isn’t “broken”: The Supreme Court has historically underrepresented minorities
November 09
12:45 2018

The Supreme Court was never really a sacred government sector. It is easy to believe that the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh has compromised the values of the nation’s highest and most revered court, but that’s not at all true. For it to be true, the Supreme Court would have to be much more inclusive and representative of the American people.

Supreme Court justices have to interpret the law to the best of their ability. That requires good judgment. I can’t speak on any of the current justices as political persons, but I believe interpretations of the law shouldn’t just come from a political standpoint.

The Constitution provides the fundamental framework from which all of our laws were and are still written — but I think we can all agree that many of the laws should evolve with the times. If they didn’t, racial segregation might still exist, free speech and free press may have been circumstantial and same-sex marriage would still be illegal.

The presence of the Supreme Court at all is proof the system is designed to be changing. Scott v. Sanford established slaves were not citizens and had no Constitutional rights. Plessy v. Ferguson established separate but equal is perfectly legal. If interpretations remained as they were in earlier times, the U.S. would be a much different country today.

However, the existing problem is that interpretations have changed but interpreters haven’t. It was to be expected that the original Supreme Court lineup of justices was composed of 10 white men. Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman appointed in 1981 by former President Reagan. The next woman appointed was Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993 followed by the first Latina justice Sonia Sotomayor, then Elena Kagan. Only four women justices total have served in U.S. Supreme Court history.

If I were alive in 1967, I may have had hope in the system after Thurgood Marshall’s appointment. Marshall graduated from a top law school in 1933, founded civil rights organization NAACP and successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education. With all the odds stacked against him by a system designed to keep him subordinate, he fought and won. And in 1991, he was succeeded by Clarence Thomas.

After one giant step forward toward inclusiveness for the Supreme Court, it took another 24 years for another tiny step. Four women and two black men. Six minority justices out of 108.

I’m neither upset or confused by these statistics. Why should one of the most elite government institutions be more representative than any of the more accessible ones?

Only 33 percent of U.S. district judges are women and 10.5 percent are women of color, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

The Supreme Court claims to value equality, justice and impartiality while justices continually let their own values influence their judgment. This is not to say that having an opinion is a bad thing, but too much of one can cause unintended influence on certain results.

It is not the justice’s job to insert their own opinions into a case judgment. It is their job to interpret the law, personal biases aside.

What the Court really values is uniformity and opportunity. The government dresses politicians in long black robes to make just enough landmark decisions to keep the public happy so long as the framework of the original system remains unchanged.

Most justices are from wealthy backgrounds and have Ivy League educations. Is this because money and private schools offer values and/or diversity that justices couldn’t have gotten anywhere else?

I don’t believe so. Graduates from East Los Angeles College and a law school ranked 65th by U.S. News World Report may end up just as qualified to fill an empty seat as a graduate from Yale. To be truly representative and able to seek justice for the American people, the Supreme Court must start appointing justices who are more like the American people.

We the people have the power, in theory, to make that happen, but many of us choose to stay out of politics altogether. I myself have often opted out of certain debates because they have become too political, but the time to stop that behavior is now. The tendency to ignore instead of learn and understand is the reason it takes so long for things to get done in the legal system.

We say we want things to change, but when the change is not immediate we give up. We only truly commit ourselves to a cause after we see others like us have as well. Why does it take someone else doing the right thing for us to consider it?

Has the system failed with the appointment of Kavanaugh, or have we?

Featured Illustration: Brianna Adams

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Brianna Adams

Brianna Adams

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