Kaplan Bar Review Survey: Newly Minted Lawyers Reflect More Progressive Thinking, But Hold Traditional Views on Selection Process for Supreme Court Justices

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A new Kaplan Bar Review survey finds that a plurality of newly minted lawyers want the next SCOTUS justice to be like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

New York, NY (September 6, 2018) — A new Kaplan Bar Review survey of more than 600 newly minted lawyers shows a dichotomy between political perspective and institutional rationale: while they lean politically progressive, they also believe in the traditional process of how U.S. Supreme Court justices are chosen and in the position’s lifetime tenure.

    • Rule like RBG: When asked which member of the Supreme Court the next justice should emulate, respondents overwhelmingly favored Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who topped the list with 41 percent, followed by Sonia Sotomayor at 19 percent. The recently retired Anthony Kennedy was the choice of 11 percent of respondents. While none of the other current justices secured more than 10 percent of responses, the justices viewed as the liberal bloc (Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan) combined are the choice of 67 percent, while those considered to be part of the conservative bloc (Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, John Roberts, and Clarence Thomas) are the combined choice of 22 percent. (Kennedy, long a swing vote on the Court, was not included in this categorization.)
    • Lifetime Tenure: Although many of those surveyed may be concerned that the Court is set to tilt to the right for a generation with the likely confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, 65 percent of those surveyed still support a lifetime appointment for SCOTUS justices. According to one analysis, the average tenure of Supreme Court justices over the next century will be about 35 years, compared to just 18 years for the past 100 years.
    • By Appointment Only: These recent law school graduates also oppose changes to how Supreme Court justices make it to the bench, with only 24 percent supporting the idea of electing justices rather than Presidents nominating them for confirmation.
    • Beyond the Harvard and Yale Club: Despite their traditionalist views in some areas, these new attorneys want radical change in another. Every sitting Supreme Court justice attended either Yale or Harvard law school (Ginsburg started at Harvard, but ultimately graduated from Columbia), and today’s law school graduates want to widen the doors of opportunity, with only 22 percent saying justices should have graduated from a T-14 school, which is defined as being a school that has at some point been ranked in the top 14 of the U.S. News & World Report Law School rankings.

“Who sits on the Supreme Court is one of today’s most divisive issues, but Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of those rare personalities in the U.S. who seems to transcend ideology, as for many, she’s not only a brilliant legal mind, but also a pop culture icon. This could explain her popularity among the new generation of lawyers,” says Tammi Rice, vice president, Kaplan Bar Review. “It’s also clear from our survey that today’s new lawyers are telling us that there is a lot of potential Supreme Court talent beyond just Cambridge and New Haven.”

*Kaplan Bar Review conducted the survey via email in July 2018. It includes responses from 612 law school graduates from the class of 2018 who took a Kaplan bar review course.

About Kaplan Bar Review

Kaplan Bar Review (www.kaplanbarreview.com) provides full-service bar review programs in 51 jurisdictions (all 50 states and Washington, DC). Additionally, Kaplan Bar Review offers supplemental preparation for the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE).

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