There are many good colleges, universities and law schools. A president could find many highly educated and intellectually sophisticated potential appointees within their alumni. If a president had to start from scratch, he could find people of a caliber equal to or possibly greater than any justices in the court’s history. It would have been fine with me if he had chosen someone for the current open seat from that vast group. But he didn’t, he chose Elena Kagan, a Harvard Law graduate and former dean of that distinguished school.
That too will be fine. Much of the negative commentary about all the court’s members coming from Ivy League schools just doesn’t make sense. It treats those schools as static when in fact, they are always in flux. Elena Kagan’s administration of the Law School included her recruitment of some very distinguished conservative legal scholars. That affects the education of the students there now in the same way that other faculty selections over the years have affected the educational experience of students before them. It is possible that the Harvard Law School of today, in terms of the educational experience to be found there, is not at all like the one Kagan, Obama and Harvard alumni on the court had.
If there is a thread that the school tries to keep up throughout, it is probably a highly competitive intellectual environment in which a student will be challenged to present and defend his views to the best of his ability. Otherwise, I suspect over a 25 year timeline the school has changed dramatically.
The notion that the commonality of views of the law and constitution among a Harvard Law class or classes is greater than their disagreements seems to me silly. I’ll bet an alumni reunion would quickly show that Harvard and the other Ivy League schools don’t have the cookie-cutter effect on alumni views that is being suggested.
There may be good reasons to question Kagan’s qualifications for the court but this is not among them.