Professor Says Ivy League Stiffs Conservative Justices

, The National Law Journal


Are the nation's Ivy League schools giving short shrift to conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices when they confer honorary degrees? A survey by one law professor suggests the answer is yes, and that the reason is ideology. Of the 14 honorary degrees bestowed by Ivy League institutions to living justices, 12 went to those on the high court's left side, said conservative legal scholar John McGinnis of Northwestern University School of Law. The two exceptions, from Brown and Yale, went to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate conservative, he said.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Continue to Lexis Advance®

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at customercare@alm.com

What's being said

  • Arshad Sherif, M.A., M.Ed.

    With all due respect to this esteemed journal, this particular article is so retarded. And I am not saying that just because the one justice who has been totally ignored is the one with whom I am obsessed. No editor on staff realized that one and only one justice was not mentioned? I can understand writing about one-third of the justices, or perhaps two-thirds of them, but who writes about eight and leaves out one? The one with whom men are obsessed. How nice it would have been to have a photo of her grace this article. But it is an attempt by the media to belittle the one woman who they know is the most powerful and controlling figure currently on this Court. And will be for many decades to come. Antonin Scalia is given too much respect here but he is not the Scalia of thirty years ago when he and Harry Blackmun were, for eight years, engaged in intensely heated ideological confrontations. Things are different now. Now all he does is sign his name to an opinion piece when he is ordered to do so. An opinion piece that is fashioned for him by clerks who are controlled by powerful forces.And the emphasis on honorary degrees is unjustified because a Supreme Court justice is far above and beyond academic degrees.A Supreme Court justice receives countless invitations to speak at commencements and an honorary degree is the university‘s way of saying "thank you" to a justice who chose to speak at its commencement rather than the commencement of some other university.But an honorary degree means a lot to a college drop out. Someone like Bill Gates, for example, who, despite his billions, has never been able to shake off the inferiority complex of not having earned a college degree. No doubt he pays handsomely for his honorary degrees. But you never see a happy and exuberant Bill Gates simply because a college degree doesn‘t do anything to your self-esteem when it is bought. Only when you earn it with persistence and intelligence will your self-esteem rise.

  • Bill Wilka

    Professor McGinnis is right in identifying the trend in numbers but wrong in assessing the reason. All five conservative Justices (including Kennedy on this point) are products of Edwin Meese‘s and Ronald Reagan‘s "seeding" of the Justice Department, federal judiciary and federal agencies in the 1980‘s with bright young men who passed a litmus test on conservative issues of the day. President Reagan and Mr. Meese identified men who could be counted on to push a right-wing judicial agenda and help shape the law, in particular constitutional interpretation, to continue Reagan-era policies for decades to come, as they moved on to positions on district courts, courts of appeals and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court. All five Justices have a direct Reagan connection: Justice Scalia was appointed by Reagan in 1982 to the D.C. Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court in 1986; Justice Thomas was the Reagan appointee to head the EEOC in 1982 and then named by the first President Bush to the Supreme Court; Reagan appointed Justice Kennedy to the Supreme Court in 1988 ; Justice Alito was named by Reagan to the Solicitor General‘s office in 1981 and subsequently by George W. Bush to the Supreme Court; and Justice Roberts was appointed by Reagan as a Special Assistant to the Attorney General in 1981, as associate counsel to the President in 1982 and later to the Supreme Court by the second President Bush. All five conservative Justices are Reagan appointees placed on the Court or in key government positions specifically to protect and advance that President‘s vision of a conservative political agenda. It should come as no surprise that Ivy League law professors (as a group generally liberal in political outlook) or the leading intellectual institutions where they work, should refrain from honoring five men whose entire careers have been formed by and loyal to Ronald Reagan‘s and Ed Meese‘s political agenda of the 1980‘s. Justice Kennedy‘s views occasionally deserve an exception to this comment, although it‘s difficult to overlook his majority opinion in Citizens United v. FEC. But whether an honorary degree is a "strong statement of a university‘s own values" or the "highest symbol of recognition that universities can bestow," the wonder would be why any university that deserves this "greatest reputation for excellence" would award such an honor to five men whose work is still so aligned with the conservative Republican political ideology of the early 1980‘s.

  • Jon Roland

    Honorary degrees are indicative but not important. More important are the ways schools discriminate against conservative and libertarian scholars in hiring, promotions, and assignments. Also indicative is any conference of the American Constitution Society, where its leaders openly proclaim their dedication to pack the schools and the courts with good "progressives" (socialists). At those conferences they are also careful to cut off anyone with a different view, and to not let sessions be recorded. See blogspot.com/2005/04/contrasting-conferences.html

Comments are not moderated. To report offensive comments, click here.

Preparing comment abuse report for Article #1202733312841

Thank you!

This article's comments will be reviewed.