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  1. Commitment to ethics and integrity
  2. Strong knowledge of constitutional law
  3. High intelligence
  4. Excellent reasoning skills
  5. Capable of expressing thoughts and interpretations clearly
  6. Able to evaluate cases impartially, without undue partisan bias
  7. Respects both precedents and context
  8. Desires for law to apply equitably across various demographic groups
  9. Considers impact of decisions
  10. Understands limits of role of judiciary
  11. Independent, but flexible, thinker
  12. Speaks persuasively
  13. Applies both logic and compassion
  14. Possesses a broad range of life experience

The ABA lists the following suggested minimum criteria for nomination to the US Supreme Court:

  1. Member in good standing in the state bar for at least five years
  2. Practicing trial attorney and/or trial judge for at least 12 years
  3. Competent citizen of good character, integrity, reason, intelligence, and judgment
  4. Distinguished accomplishments
  5. Appellate nominations must be legal scholars

President Obama eloquently expressed what he believes to be the most important qualities of a US Supreme Court justice when he nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the bench (excerpt):

"First and foremost is a rigorous intellect -- a mastery of the law, an ability to hone in on the key issues and provide clear answers to complex legal questions. Second is a recognition of the limits of the judicial role, an understanding that a judge's job is to interpret, not make, law; to approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice; a respect for precedent and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand.

"These two qualities are essential, I believe, for anyone who would sit on our nation's highest court. And yet, these qualities alone are insufficient. We need something more. For as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience." Experience being tested by obstacles and barriers, by hardship and misfortune; experience insisting, persisting, and ultimately overcoming those barriers. It is experience that can give a person a common touch and a sense of compassion; an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live. And that is why it is a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need on the Supreme Court."

You can access President Obama's nomination speech in its entirety via Related Links, below.

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13y ago
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Historically, Supreme Court justices have typically been white, protestant males from upper-middle to upper class backgrounds. All Supreme Court justices so far have been licensed attorneys, although not all had law degrees, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries.

This profile is gradually changing. The current Court seats six men and three women; and two justices are considered ethnic minorities for demographic purposes. None of the current justices is protestant: six are Roman Catholic and three are Jewish. Some of the justices come from family backgrounds of modest means.

Justices selected during the past two decades have had ivy league educations, graduated at the top of their classes, and many made law review. On the current Court, all but one (Elena Kagan) have had prior judicial experience at the federal appellate level. Kagan was formerly US Solicitor General, although she spent most of her prior career as Dean of Harvard Law School.

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