Law Schools That Graduated the Most Supreme Court Justices
Remember John Marshall, the longest-serving Chief Justice and architect of judicial review in Marbury vs. Madison? Guess where he went to law school? He didn’t. He read law under George Wythe, a judge who also mentored Thomas Jefferson and Henry Clay. Oliver Ellsworth, who helped draft the constitution and served as a Chief Justice, earned the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree at Princeton before reading law for four years. Another Chief Justice, John Jay, earned his Bachelor’s at Columbia before reading law as well. And Benjamin Cardozo? He quit law school before his third year.
Notice a trend?
120 years ago, you didn’t need a JD to practice law. You simply apprenticed under a judge or lawyer before you applied for the bar. In fact, according to a recent column in Time, 64 out of 112 Supreme Court Justices (57%) never earned law degrees.
It almost makes you appreciate failed candidates like G. Harrold Carswell and Harriet Miers.
And that brings up the inevitable question: Which law school has produced the most Supreme Court Justices? Not surprisingly, those bragging rights belong to Harvard Law, with 15 Supreme Court Justices. Yale Law trails behind at six, with Columbia picking up the bronze with four. In addition, a number of schools boast two Supreme Court alumni, including Stanford, Samford, Northeastern, and the University of Cincinnati.
The current Supreme Court features five Harvard grads (John Roberts, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, and Antonin Scalia), three Yale alums (Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas), and one Columbia JD (Ruth Bader Ginsburg).
Among Supreme Court giants, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, and Oliver Wendell Holmes earned their law degrees from Harvard. Yale boasts Potter Stewart, while Hugo Black matriculated at the University of Alabama. Columbia produced Charles Evans Hughes. Earl Warren was a Berkeley grad, while Thurgood Marshall called Howard home.
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Source: Golden Gate University