Lots of female justices headed to the Supreme Court?

Justice Alito thinks so -- in a generation.

By Katharine Mieszkowski
Published February 9, 2007 9:44PM (EST)

Don't fret, Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg! More female justices are coming to the Supreme Court. Justice Samuel Alito, who replaced O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the court, is sure about this. It just may take a generation for them to get there.

Earlier this week, we noted Ginsburg's somewhat wistful declaration that it's a little lonely being the only woman on the court, with O'Connor gone. And O'Connor has frequently said that she is sorry that she wasn't replaced by a woman.

Now, the guy who replaced O'Connor, Justice Alito, is weighing in on the matter. Speaking to an introductory politics class at the University of Virginia on Wednesday, Alito said the court will eventually have at least as many female justices as it does male, according to the Associated Press.

Basically, Alito sees the problem as purely a pipeline issue. In the past, there haven't been enough female lawyers and judges coming up through the ranks to make it to the court. Now, Alito predicts, since most law schools have classes made up of 50 women, within a generation they'll be lots of women justices. "You don't get there when you're young," Alito said. "There's a considerable amount of lag time."

But there still isn't yet total gender parity among the students at the nation's top law schools, which produce a disproportionate number of future Supreme Court justices. For instance, 46 percent of the students at Yale Law School, which Alito himself attended, are women. Harvard Law School's current first-year class is 47 percent female. A whole generation seems like a long time to wait for a Supreme Court in which it will no longer be worth remarking on the gender of the justices. Yet, by Alito's own logic, it could take even longer than that.

Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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