This spring may mark another race - besides last weekend's Preakness Stakes - that finds a female crossing the finish line in first place.
Since Associate Justice David Souter announced May 1 that he would be retiring from the Supreme Court, pundits and Court watchers have predicted President Obama will nominate a woman to fill the seat. If appointed, a female justice would be only the third to serve. President Reagan nominated the first female Justice to the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O'Connor, in 1981. President Clinton nominated the second, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in 1993. Thus, from 1993-2006 two women served on the Court, until Justice O'Connor resigned and her seat was filled by Justice Samuel Alito.
Political scientists observe that Presidents are reluctant to reverse the precedent of appointing religious, cultural, and racial minority-group members once the initial barrier is broken. Roger Taney's 1835 appointment to the Court created a minimum threshold of one "Catholic seat" on the Court. (There are currently five.) Louis Brandeis's 1916 appointment similarly created a "Jewish seat" that was kept until Abe Fortas resigned in 1969. And in perhaps the most striking case of a President preserving the seat, President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to fill the seat vacated by Justice Thurgood Marshall, appointed in 1967, maintaining an "African American seat." The Thomas appointment resulted in a dramatic change in both the political ideology and judicial philosophy of the person holding that seat.
Given this, restoring two women members to the high court seems in keeping with past presidential practice. According to recent American Bar Association data, women now compose about half of U.S. law school students, ...1
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