Kavanaugh Followed the Narrow, Elite Path of Supreme Court Justices

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President Trump often disparages the Washington elite, but both of his Supreme Court nominees fall squarely into that category.

Before being nominated by Mr. Trump, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh attended the same Washington prep school before earning law degrees from Ivy League schools. They went on to clerk for Supreme Court justices. They served in the administration of George W. Bush, gaining Washington experience as did most current justices, who worked in the White House or were federal officials. And Mr. Trump’s nominees eventually went on to assume federal judgeships.

In essence, they followed a trajectory familiar to almost all of the current justices, a path that seems to squeeze out candidates who do not check most of these boxes.

A Supreme Court clerkship is a new addition to the playbook. There have been only seven former Supreme Court clerks who went on to serve as justices; the current court has four. If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, the 2018-19 court will be the first with a majority of justices who served as Supreme Court clerks.

An analysis of Martin-Quinn scores, which measure justice ideology based on voting patterns, shows some ideological relationship between clerks and justices.

Judge Kavanaugh worked as a law clerk in the early 1990s for the man he was just nominated to replace: retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

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