Justice Ginsburg: Supreme Court Picks Should Not Be Based on Religion
April 9, 2010 - 5:26 PMSupreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said judges should not be selected based on their religion and that while the court did not reflect the religious makeup of the country, religion should not be a qualification for a justice.
Speaking at Georgetown University Law School on Thursday, Ginsburg – one of two Jewish justices on a court dominated by Catholic members – said no justice would want to be identified by his religion.
“We’re not representative of the United States as far as religion is concerned,” Justice Ginsburg said. “We have on the court six Catholics, two Jews, and only one white Anglo-Saxon Protestant. That’s unusual in U.S. society.”
Ginsburg also said that while all nine Justices came from different religious traditions, none would want to be thought of only in terms of their religion. Ginsburg added that a president should not choose any justice based on his (or her) religion.
“But I don’t think that any of us would like to be identified as – say for me – the Jewish Justice or the Catholic Justice,” said Ginsburg. “We happen to have a certain religious heritage, but we should not be chosen for the court, I think, on that basis.”
Ginsburg’s colleague Justice John Paul Stevens, the court’s only Protestant, announced on April 9 that he would retire from the court as soon as President Barack Obama can name a replacement.
While Justice Ginsburg’s comments preceded Justice Stevens’ announcement, it was widely believed that Stevens would retire after the court’s current term ends in the spring.
Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has called for a greater diversity among candidates for the court. On April 6, O’Connor said that nominees should come from backgrounds outside of the federal judiciary and that the court could benefit from having more Protestant members.
“I think that religion should not be the basis for an appointment, but if that were the case, one would expect somewhere in the nine to see a Protestant or two,” said O’Connor. “You’ll probably see someone eventually.”
President Obama vowed on April 9 to pick a candidate with “similar qualities” to Justice Stevens.