Supreme Court Of New York City ?

New York City flagIn addition to increasing the dominance of the Ivy League on the nation’s highest Court, the elevation of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court would also mark a milestone for New York City:

The Supreme Court has some justices who are liberals and some who are conservatives. It has some who see themselves as strict constructionists and some who probably do not.

And then it has the justices who grew up riding the subway and the ones who grew up turning right on red.

It has the justice who was the treasurer of the Go-Getters Club at James Madison High School in Brooklyn. It has the justice who watched “Perry Mason” on television in a housing project in the Bronx and decided that the star defense lawyer was less important than the judge. It has the justice who took part in a junior military training program at Xavier High School in Manhattan and carried his rifle home on the train to Queens.

If the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court is confirmed, she would join three others in a distinct bloc. For the first time in the court’s history, said William Treanor, the dean of Fordham Law School, it would have four justices who grew up in New York City.

The four are a portrait of the city, each carrying distinct New York traits to Washington. “Kagan is so Manhattan, Scalia is so Queens, Ginsburg is so Brooklyn and Sotomayor is so Bronx,” said Joan Biskupic, the author of a biography of Justice Antonin Scalia. “They adopted in their identities the whole New York sensibility.”

It’s a minor point, perhaps, but along with the educational bias that James noted, and the fact that, assuming Kagan is confirmed, only one Supreme Court Justice, Anthony Kennedy, will be from an area not on the East Coast of the United States. It does make one wonder whether this is all just a coincidence, or if there’s some kind of odd selection bias at play here.

Also, just for the record, Justices from Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx reflect a pretty cosmopolitan idea of “diversity.”

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Dantheman says:

    “assuming Kagan is confirmed, only one Supreme Court Justice, Anthony Kennedy, will be from an area not on the East Coast of the United States”

    Two, actually. Steven Breyer is from San Francisco.

  2. Yes, I considered including Breyer on the other side of the continent since he was born and raised in California, but he spent nearly his entire post-college life, and his entire legal career, in Massachusetts.

    Which is probably why he’s listed as hailing from Massachusetts on Wikipedia’s list of Supreme Court Justices:

  3. Dave says:

    What’s wrong with Staten Island?

  4. Dave,

    How much time do you have ?

    No seriously, I’m sure S.I. will get it’s turn soon enough

  5. Matt says:


  6. 11B40 says:


    Furthermore, and a good way to “out” where “New Yorkers” are really from, people from Queens and Brooklyn refer to Manhattan as “the city”. People from the Bronx, which, by the way, is the only part of New York City that is part of continental USofA, refer to Manhattan as “downtown”. None of the above refer to Staten Island which New York City had to take when it lost a boat race with New Jersey.

  7. carpeicthus says:

    As a New Yorker, I would support a fillibuster of any justice from Staten Island.