Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 11-29-2023

Faculty Advisor(s)

Dr. John Compton


The professional and personal backgrounds of Supreme Court Justices are becoming increasingly similar. Nearly all sitting justices hold degrees from an Ivy league law school and have experience as federal circuit judges. In earlier periods this was not the case. The Stone Court of the 1940’s had six Ivy League alumni and one judge with federal circuit experience. This begs the question, when and why did this shift take place? This study will provide an overview of the occupational and educational backgrounds of every justice from 1910 to the present, in addition to Supreme Court nominees of the same period that failed to reach the high court. The process of Supreme Court justices gradually becoming more homogenized in terms of qualifications is what this study classifies as the professionalization of the court. This study hypothesizes that as the Supreme Court nomination process became more politicized over time, presidents feared their nomination being rejected on the grounds of professional inexperience or lackluster education. Hence, justice qualifications become professionalized in a uniform manner. This paper will argue that the trend of professionalization of the Supreme Court began in the 1970’s. Academics and non-academic alike will find this study interesting as it will provide context to the current court and possibly their partisan jurisprudence. In addition, it may predict what we expect to see moving forward with the court in terms of justices’ education and employment qualifications. Lastly, we may be able to correlate court professionalization and the polarization of the Supreme Court Justice nomination process.


Presented at the Fall 2023 Student Scholar Symposium at Chapman University.