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Elena Kagan: Would she turn Supreme Court into We the People?

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One way to stay credible is to have justices whom Americans identify with and admire.

"As a minority, it is gratifying and yes, important, for me to see people of color on the Supreme Court and in other positions of leadership," says Viet Dinh, a law professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and a former high-ranking official in George W. Bush's Department of Justice. "When I see a Justice Thomas or a Justice Sotomayor," continues Mr. Dinh in an e-mail interview, "I am inspired by their example, for the simple reason that they have overcome so much, that they made it there not because of their race, but in spite of it."

Dinh, too, may one day be another's inspiring example. A prominent conservative lawyer who came to the United States in 1978 as a 10-year-old Vietnamese refugee; clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; and went on to help draft the USA Patriot Act after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; he could very well end up on a Republican president's shortlist for a Supreme Court vacancy.

And if high-profile nominations to the federal courts of appeal are any indication of which demographic is next in line for Supreme Court representation, Asian-Americans appear to be on deck.

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