Supreme Court Justices: Demographic Characteristics, Professional Experience, and Legal Education, 1789-2010 [April 9, 2010] [open pdf - 420KB]
"Over time, the Supreme Court has become more diverse in some ways and more homogeneous in others. When first constituted, and throughout most of its history, no women or minorities served on the Court. This changed with the appointment of the first African-American Justice, Thurgood Marshall, in 1967, and the first female Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor, in 1981. When Justice Marshall retired from the Court in 1991, he was succeeded by another African-American, Justice Clarence Thomas. Although Justice O'Connor, upon her retirement in 2006, was succeeded by a male, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the Court's membership once again, in August 2009, included two female Justices, upon the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor. The religious affiliations of the Court's members also has changed over time. For almost the first 50 years of the Court, all Justices were affiliated with protestant Christian churches. The first Jewish Justice, Louis Brandeis, was appointed in 1916. Currently, two Jewish Justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, serve on the Court. The first Catholic Justice, Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, was appointed in 1836. With the confirmation of Justice Sotomayor, six of the nine current Justices identify as Roman Catholic. The career experiences of the Court's Justices, while quite diverse in the past, have become more homogeneous in recent times. […] Over time, Justices' legal educations have become more homogeneous, as well. In the last 20 years, especially, three Ivy League law schools--Harvard, Yale, and Columbia--have been disproportionately represented on the Court. Of the nine sitting Justices, eight have attended one of these three law schools, including recently confirmed Justice Sotomayor, who is a graduate of Yale Law School."
CRS Report for Congress, R40802