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A Current Look at the Supreme Court

An in-depth look at each justice’s history before, and on, the Roberts Court.



(Top Row: Brett Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett

Bottom Row: Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor)


John Roberts:

  • Born in Buffalo, New York in 1955

  • Attended Harvard college (1973-1976) and graduated summa cum laude. Later attended Harvard Law School in 1979, and earned a J.D.

  • Originally wanted to be a history major

  • Law clerk for William Rehnquist in 1980 Supreme Court term

  • Appointed as Associate Counsel to Ronald Reagan from 1986-1989

  • Principal Solicitor General from 1989-1993

  • In 2003, he was appointed by George W. Bush to the D.C. court of appeals

  • Appointed in 2005 by George Bush to the Supreme Court

  • Replaced Chief Justice William Rehnquist after his death

  • Confirmed 78-22 as Chief Justice, a title which allows him to choose who writes the majority opinion

  • Upheld congress’ ability to ban certain types of abortions (Gonzalez V. Carhartt)

  • Forced colleges that use federal funding to allow military recruiters on campus (Rumsfeld V. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights)

  • Overturned school’s ability to use race as a factor in admissions (Parents Involved in Community Schools V. Seattle School District No. 1)

  • Upheld tax credits in Affordable Care Act (King V. Burwell)

  • Dissented against same-sex marriage being a fundamental right (Obergdefell V. Hodges)


Clarence Thomas:

  • Born in Savannah, Georgia in 1948

  • Graduated from College of the Holy Cross in 1971 and later received J.D. from Yale in 1974

  • Originally wanted to become a priest

  • One of the first black students at Yale college

  • Attorney General for Missouri 1974-1977

  • Worked for senator John Danforth as legislative assistant

  • Appointed to equal employment opportunity commission in 1978 by Ronald Reagan

  • Appointed to D.C. Court of appeals 190-1991 by George H.W. Bush

  • George H.W. Bush nominated him in 1991 to the Supreme Court

  • Replaced Thurgood Marshall after his death

  • Confirmed by senate 52-48 even after sexual assault allegations

  • Rarely speaks in oral arguments

  • 2nd black Supreme Court justice

  • Contributed to Antonin Scalia’s District of Columbia V Heller opinion, a personal gun control case for self defense

  • Contributed to Anthony Kennedy’s Citizens United V. FEC opinion, a campaign finance case

  • Majority opinion that a public school violated the 1st amendment by refusing religious clubs to meet on campus (Good News Club V. Milford Central School)

  • Dissented in Gonzalez V. Raich, a case deciding that congress could regulate weed using the commerce clause, even if a state law legalized personal use


Stephen Breyer:

  • Born in San Francisco, California in 1938.

  • Attended Stanford, went to Oxford on a Marshall Scholarship, and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard

  • Was a law clerk for supreme court justice Arthur Goldberg in the 1964 term

  • Assistant professor at Harvard in 1967

  • Joined Watergate Prosecution Force against President Nixon in 1973

  • Special Counsel for Senate Judiciary Committee from 1974-1975

  • Appointed to 1st circuit of the Court of Appeals by Jimmy Carter from 1980-1990.

  • Chief justice of 1st circuit of Court of Appeals from 1990-1994

  • Appointed to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton in 1994

  • Replaced the retiring Henry Blackmun

  • Was confirmed 87-9

  • Ruled that a law banning partial birth abortions was unconstitutional because it interfered with women’s rights (Stenberg V. Carhart)

  • Dissented in lethal injection case, as he saw the death penalty as unconstitutional (Glossip V. Gross)


Samuel Alito:

  • Born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1950

  • Graduated from Princeton School of Public and International Affairs in 1972, and graduated from Yale Law School 3 years later

  • Was involved in politics from a young age, pushed by the discrimination he experienced as a son of immigrants

  • Law clerk for Leonard Garth, a justice on the Court of Appeals

  • Assistant for Solicitor General of New Jersey

  • Appointed to 3rd circuit of the court of appeals by George H.W. Bush in 1990

  • Appointed to the Supreme Court by George Bush in 2006

  • Replaced the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor

  • Confirmed 58-42

  • Argued that emotional distress caused by a church picketing a gay military soldier’s funeral, should have overidden their 1st amendment rights. (Dissent in Snyder V. Phelps)

  • Majority opinion that corporations can be exempt from laws requiring contraception to be provided to female employees based on religious beliefs. (Burwell V. Hobby Lobby)


Sonia Sotomayor:

  • Born in the Bronx, New York in 1954

  • Attended Princeton University and in 1976 graduated Summa Cum Laude. Graduated from Yale Law School in 1979

  • As a kid, she wanted to be a detective “like Nancy Drew”

  • Raised by her mother after her father’s death

  • Valedictorian of high school class

  • District Attorney for New York from 1979-1984

  • Joined Pavia and Harcourt firm, based around business and corporate law

  • George H.W Bush nominated her to U.S. district court in New York from 1992-98

  • Appointed to 2nd circuit court of appeals by Bill Clinton, from 1998-2009

  • Appointed by Obama in 2009 to the Supreme Court

  • Replaced the retiring David Souter.

  • 1st woman and 3rd hispanic on the Supreme Court.

  • Confirmed 68-31.

  • In her first case, she dissented. (Citizens United V. FEC)

  • 60 page dissent stating that there should not be prohibitions for state universities using race in admissions.(Schuette V. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action)


Elena Kagan:

  • Born in New York, New York in 1960

  • Graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1981, received a fellowship to attend Oxford in 1983, and graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1986

  • Highly involved in politics, and wanted to be involved in law from a very young age

  • Clerk for Thurgood Marshall in the 1987 term

  • Associate Counsel to Bill Clinton

  • Assistant, and later Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Counsel

  • Was dean of Harvard law from 2003-2009

  • Appointed Solicitor General of U.S. in 2009 by Barack Obama

  • Appointed to the Supreme Court in 2010 by Barack Obama

  • Replaced John Paul Stevens after his death

  • Confirmed 63-37

  • No prior judicial experience on a court

  • Had few early opinions, as she had to recuse herself frequently because of cases involving the Bill Clinton counsel

  • Authored patent decision on comic books (Kimble V. Marvel Entertainment)

  • In majority opinion in Obergefell V. Hodges, and in King V. Burwell


Neil Gorsuch:

  • Born in Denver, Colorado in 1967

  • Graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia in 1988, graduated from Harvard in 1991, and later attended Oxford

  • Was greatly influenced politically since his mother became the first female Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency

  • Law clerk for Justice Byron White and for Anthony Kennedy

  • Appointed as Principal Deputy Associate AG 2005-2006 by George W, Bush

  • Appointed to U.S. court of appeals 10th circuit by George W. Bush

  • Merrick Garland’s nomination by Barack Obama failed to gain a majority, and passed the appointment on to Trump

  • Appointed to Supreme Court in 2017 by Donald Trump

  • Replaced Antonin Scalia after his death

  • Confirmed 54-45


Brett Kavanaugh:

  • Born in Washington, DC in 1965

  • Attended Georgetown Preparatory College, Yale in 1987, and eventually received a J.D. from Yale in 1990

  • Law clerk for Anthony Kennedy

  • Appointed to Attorney Office of Solicitor General from 1992-1993

  • Associate Counsel in Office of Independent Counsel from 1994-1997

  • outlined grounds for clinton's impeachment in STARR report

  • Associate Counsel for George W. Bush from 2001-2003

  • Appointed to the D.C. appeals circuit in 2006 by George W. Bush

  • Appointed to Supreme Court in 2018 by Trump

  • Replaced retiring Anthony Kennedy

  • Confirmed 50-48, even with sexual assault scandal


Amy Coney Barrett:

  • Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1972

  • Graduated magna cum laude from Rhodes College in 1994. Graduated from Notre Dame Law in 1997

  • Barrett wanted to go into law or politics because her father was an attorney for Shell Oil

  • Law clerk for Antonin Scalia in 1998 term

  • Became Notre Dame law professor in 2002

  • Appointed to 2017 appeals circuit by Donald Trump

  • Appointed to Supreme Court in 2020 Donald Trump

  • Replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg after her death

  • Confirmed 52-48



Sources:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/about/biographies.aspx

https://www.scotusblog.com/biographies-of-the-justices/

https://www.oyez.org/justices

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