Race and gender are important, but with six Harvard justices, President Obama should consider geographic, professional, and social backgrounds, too, when he evaluates nominees.
It may not be long before President Obama is confronted with the delicate task of choosing a new justice for the Supreme Court. Indeed, given the ages of the current justices, he may have the opportunity to appoint more than one.
If and when he does, interest groups will seek to put pressure on him in support of particular candidates. In considering them, the president would do well to note the uniformity that now prevails. Daniel Meador, one of America's most distinguished law professors and a Supreme Court advocate, has written that the court today "is the least diverse court since 1789." He feels that its work has suffered as a result.
It is widely recognized that most major economic, financial, moral, and social questions that affect the country are ultimately decided by the court's nine justices.
In the past 50 years, they have arguably decided the fates of three presidents. The 1971 decision in New York Times v. the United States indirectly led to the resignation of President Nixon; their decision in Bush v. Gore resulted in the election of President Bush in 2000, and their decision in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education declaring the "separate but equal doctrine" unconstitutional, paved the way for Mr. Obama to become president 55 years later.
In the 19th century, the court's decision in the Dred Scott case led directly to the Civil War.