Who are the justices again?

August 21, 2012
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A recent poll survey has found only 34 percent of Americans can name at least one U.S. Supreme Court justice. I would imagine the same could be said for Indiana’s justices.

Twenty percent of respondents could name Chief Justice John Roberts; 16 percent could name Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas; Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor came in at 13 percent; Anthony Kennedy at 10 percent; Samuel Alito at 5 percent and Elena Kagan at 4 percent.

Roberts’ name was often mentioned in the health care ruling this year, so that may explain why he was named the most. I’m surprised that Clarence Thomas wasn’t named by more people. Back in the early 1990s, I remember his name often being mentioned in the news, thanks to the controversy with Anita Hill during his confirmation process. Maybe the respondents forgot about that.

The survey highlights how little people pay attention to the Supreme Court, except when major decisions are handed down on health care and immigration. But even then, the focus is more on the decision than the people behind the decision. The fact cameras aren’t allowed in the court and the justices lead fairly low-profile lives also lends to the mystery of the court.

The same could be said for Indiana’s justices. Before I joined the staff of this newspaper, I would not have been able to name any members of our high court. When the Barnes ruling came down last year, Justice Steven David’s name became associated with the ruling, only because he was the authoring justice. As far as I can recall, none of the protestors who rallied against the decision called out the other members of the majority for the decision.

Do you think Americans should be able to name all the justices, or at least be able to name several? Is it important that the justices are in the public eye or is it best they keep low profiles?
 

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