Closing The Gap

95 percent of Supreme Court justices have been white men

Justices of the US Supreme Court sit for their official group photo in Washington, DC, on June 1, 2017. Seated (L-R): Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice of the US John G. Roberts, Associate Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer. Standing (L-R): Associate Justices Elena Kagan, Samuel Alito Jr., Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Today is the first day that newly-confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh takes his seat on the bench. Kavanuagh was confirmed over the weekend after a fraught confirmation process that included allegations of sexual assault and a last-minute investigation by the FBI.

Kavanaugh is one of just 114 people to have been appointed to this esteemed position since the Supreme Court was established in 1789, reports The New York Times

He's also part of a well-established tradition: All but six Supreme Court justices have been white men.

In 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first African-American justice to join the Supreme Court. Clarence Thomas became the second African-American justice in 1991. Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female justice on the Supreme Court, was appointed in 1981, 192 years after the court was established.

It wasn't until 2009 that Sonia Sotomayor became the first Hispanic justice, and only the fourth woman, to serve on the Supreme Court. She serves alongside two other women, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Elena Kagan.

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh attends his ceremonial swearing in in the East Room of the White House October 08, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

The similarities don't stop at race and gender. Every sitting Supreme Court justice attended either Yale or its rival institution, Harvard. Samuel A. Alito, Thomas and Sotomayor all attended Yale, while John G. Roberts, Stephen G. Breyer, Neil M. Gorsuch, Ginsburg and Kagan all attended Harvard.

Like Kavanaugh, Gorsuch attended Georgetown Prep. According to data from the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Research, 85 percent of U.S. Supreme Court justices between 1910 and 2014 were once members of a college fraternity.

According to Pew Research Center, the average age of a Supreme Court Justice when they are sworn in is 53. Kavanaugh, the court's newest justice, is 53.

In an interview earlier this year with The Atlantic, Ginsberg emphasized the importance of greater diversity on the Supreme Court, saying, "There is a life experience that women have that brings something to the table. I think a collegial body is much better off to have diverse people of different backgrounds and experience, that can make our discussions more informed."

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