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The Supreme Court's Diversity Trend

They may not have called them "diversity picks" back in the day, but Jeffrey Toobin points out that they're as old as the Supreme Court. In a smart New Yorker piece, Toobin points out that seats have always been reserved for minorities on the Supreme Court... just not racial or gendered minorities. When the U.S. was a young nation full of regional disputes, presidents honored an informal tradition of appointing justices from different regions of the country, while later, during the 19th century, religious difference became the conflict du jour, and so the court came to have a Catholic seat and later, a Jewish seat. As race and gender came to define U.S. politics, the court got its first African-American justice, Thurgood Marshall, and the first woman, Sandra Day O'Connor. Toobin argues that Sonia Sotomayor's nomination is a way of coming to terms with the changing face of America. Toobin also says that the main critiques of her abilities ("not that smart" and "domineering") carry the "pernicious implication" that "white males, who constitute a hundred and six of the hundred and ten individuals who have served on the court, made it on merit, and that Sotomayor is somehow less deserving."