The Emerging Conservative Ivy League Supreme Court

What was it that US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote? Go East, Young Man (see also here).

Richard Cohen at the Washington Post has a thought-provoking November 15, 2005 view of the current US Supreme Court from the law school perspective.

Stanford, which had previously held the US Supreme Court plurality with 4 Stanford graduates, including the Chief Justice Rehnquist (see here and here), is now out, replaced by Harvard and the Ivy League.

Surprisingly, this predominance of Harvard graduates on the US Supreme Court is an unusual and modern phenomenon. Mind you, this is not sour grapes, as the Law Pundit, a Stanford Law School alumnus, was also accepted to Harvard Law School in his younger days. Rather, the point here is that the emerging composition of the US Supreme Court is a sign of the times which must be understood as part of the “big picture” and not just as a matter of the political vagaries of individual judicial nominations. Even Presidents of the USA – as also their decisions and judicial nominations – are products of the prevailing attitudes of their age.

The emerging Ivy League dominance, especially that of Harvard, the nation’s oldest (or second oldest) law school, depending on the source source used, is a significant barometer for the impending state of the world of the future.

When the Law Pundit chose Stanford over more established, traditional schools such as Harvard, it was the year 1968, when the prevailing political, academic and technological action of the country was in California and when the world was rocked.

Silicon Valley ruled. The route West then was clear. In those days, the technology philosophy of Bacon and Locke (beneficial) prevailed over Rousseau and Heidegger (harmful), at least in my mind, and they still do. Yet, to swing the pendulum back a bit, perhaps the route East is now required for a time.

Now, nearly 40 years later, some of the air is out of the Silicon Valley bubble … though Google and Yahoo (also here) are still Stanford products, so some of the flair definitely remains where it began.

Nevertheless, we must today confront the following and sobering 21st century political realities:

1) that technology is not immunizing us from the threat of primitive, dark age cultures captured by the perfidious religious dogmas of bygone ages, or;


2) that technology is not keeping such primitive cultures from using or hoping to use our modern inventions for evil purposes, inventions which these backward cultures could never have developed on their own and which they are by their historical development not properly equipped to possess or use. Technology in the hands of barbarians leads to barbarianism.

And what will happen when the barbarians run out of water?

Hence, it is not surprising to find the focus of the body politic and the judiciary in the USA to inescapably revert back to the fundamental American promise and to core American values. How, given the political situation of the current troubled world, threatened by barbarians in many quarters, could it be otherwise? Even technology has to be driven by a philosophy which leads to a beneficial effect in society.

The trend toward a restoration of the importance of values in the United States is just one part of the absolutely necessary solution for reaching a new balance between human rights and human obligations. Everyone talks about human rights but no one talks about human obligations, yet the latter is as essential as the former, nor can one exist without the other.

Freedom and liberty with responsibility, yes. Freedom and liberty without responsibility, no.

Western Civilization has a natural right to defend itself against the forces of darkness, and part of the job of protecting that civilization – that way of life – is assigned to the courts.

We think that the marginal shift to the right on the US Supreme Court is a necessary shift in today’s world. After decades of emphasis on human rights, we need a few decades with emphasis on human obligations.