In case you have been living under a rock, news dropped today that Justice Kennedy of the Supreme Court is retiring in July. As a key swing vote in many landmark cases, this will leave a key vacancy on the bench to be filled by the current administration.
Within minutes of the announcement, the Twitter-sphere was bombarded with a cacophony of tweets fueled by the partisan politics of the age. If you are a fan of our current Administration, you probably welcome it. If you are part of #TheResistance, you are probably on the phone with a staffer from your Senate office right now and are plotting out your phonebank hours for some midterm election work. I think we can all agree that, no matter how you look at it, the vacancy left by Justice Kennedy and the subsequent appointment (and process to appointment) will have a lasting impact on the Court and American policy for years to come.
But this post is not actually about politics today.
While I do want to talk about the Supreme Court, I don’t want to talk about Justice Kennedy.
Let’s do a roll call, shall we? Can you name the nine members of the Supreme Court?
Chief Justice John G. Roberts
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy
Associate Justice Clarence Thomas
Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer
Associate Justice Elena Kagan
Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch
Of those nine? Only three are women.
The fact that we have three women serving on the Supreme Court at the same time is, in fact, notable. These three women are part of a very select club. They follow in the pioneering footsteps of Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in July of 1981. That’s right, you read that right… in the 229 years of existence, the Supreme Court has only had FOUR female Justices, and they all were appointed in the last 40 years.
So, yeah. When the news is plastered with the men of the Supreme Court today, indulge me because I don’t want to talk about them.
I want to talk about these trailblazing women, representing both conservative and liberal views, and the wisdom and power that they have.
I want to talk about how they serve as incredible role models for the next generation of politically involved youth and young adults.
I want to talk about the fact that there is SO MUCH WORK left to done.
Maybe, just maybe, we can learn from them and be inspired and reinvigorated before we jump back into navigating the contentious political environments that we find ourselves in.
Check out these words of wisdom from the Women of the U.S. Supreme Court:
SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR (Served: 1981-2006)
Sandra Day O’ Connor was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan on July 7, 1981 where she served until her retirement in 2006. Prior to her time on the Supreme Court she was the first woman to be elected Majority Leader in the Arizona State Senate. She was a trailblazer during her time on the Court and cast a decisive vote in decisions ranging from personal privacy and discrimination cases, to environmental protections and election law. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
RUTH BADER GINSBURG (Serving: 1993-present)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton on August 10, 1993. She was the second female Justice to be confirmed on the Court. Prior to her service on the Supreme Court she served on the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, as appointed by President Jimmy Carter. She is widely considered to be the most senior member of the “Liberal” wing of the Court. She has authored Court opinions on numerous cases including a landmark case ruling that the Virginia Military Institute could not have an enrollment policy that was male-only.
SONIA SOTOMAYOR (Serving: 2009-present)
Sonia Sotomayor was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Obama in May 2009, and confirmed in August 2009. She was the third woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court and the first justice of Hispanic descent. Prior to her service on the Supreme Court, she served in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (nominated by President George H.W. Bush), and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (nominated by President Bill Clinton).
ELENA KAGAN (Serving 2010-present)
Elena Kagan was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Barack Obama in May 2010, and confirmed in August 2010. She is the Court’s fourth female justice. She was formally the first female Solicitor General of the United States (2009), a post she resigned upon confirmation to the Supreme Court. In her tenure on the Supreme Court she has upheld landmark rulings including: Obamacare in 2015 and legalizing same-sex marriage.