By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Here in the Northeast, we know all about the Ivy League. The eight schools within it – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Brown, and the University of Pennsylvania – are all clustered within a few hundred miles, hard to get into, and regarded as among the most prestigious schools in the country. We also know they’re not the be-all and end-all, with no monopoly on bright students and teachers. Some of them are, in some ways, grossly overrated.

But if you’re looking for a reason why we’re currently mired in this mess surrounding the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, you have to look in part at the mythology surrounding the Ivy League and its perception as a cultural status symbol. Consider some of the candidates on President trump’s short-list for this vacancy who were passed over for Kavanaugh.

Judge Joan Larsen easily won bipartisan confirmation to the federal appeals court last year. But she didn’t attend an Ivy League school for college or law school.
Another female appeals court judge, Amy Coney Barrett, was a student and professor at Notre Dame. But that’s not an Ivy League school.

Judge Amul Thapar may have been the most conservative candidate on the shortlist, but he only attended UC-Berkeley and Boston College.

And Judge Thomas Hardiman served on the bench alongside the president’s sister, but he also went to Notre Dame, as well as Georgetown law.

Sense a pattern here? Guess which shortlist candidate was the only one to, like the president, attend an Ivy League school?

Maybe insisting on the glamour credential wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Your comments are welcome, via email at, or use Twitter, @kelleratlarge.

Jon Keller

  1. Theodore Oule says:

    i agree with you, Jon, that the Ivy League, particularly the Ivy League law schools of Harvard and Yale would seem to be over-represented on the Supreme Court.

    But I don’t see anywhere in the authorizing statutes either a requirement for or a bias to those institutions vis or nation’s court system.

    Can you say that Justices Kagan and Sotomayor shouldn’t have been appointed just because the went to an Ivy League law school? And as for the current nominee, have you looked at his judicial record as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of appeals? It’s extraordinary, and certainly more extraordinary than the last nominee from that court.

    It would seem a touch shallow to disregard the actual experience of the nominee just to take a swipe at the Ivy League law schools.

    And, with no disrespect to other law schools, Harvard and Yale tend to graduate a far greater number of exceptionally well qualified young attorneys that most the others.

    Perhaps there is a reason beyond just the perception of a case of poison Ivy.