Is a relative lack of courtroom experience unusual for a Supreme Court justice?

Sunday, November 1, 2020
By Esther Tsvayg

Amy Coney Barrett's resume, long on academic experience but short on legal practice or trial judging, is not unusual among her new colleagues on the Supreme Court.

A 2013 review concluded that "the Roberts Court justices spent less time in the private practice of law, in trial judging and as elected politicians than any previous court." The vast majority of earlier justices have had experience in private practice, but there appears to be no fixed route to the highest court. Nine of the seventeen men who have served as Chief Justice were appointed without prior judicial experience.

Justice Barrett spent two years as a practicing attorney. On her nomination disclosure form, she recalled "only three significant litigated matters" that she "personally handled." She taught law for 15 years before her 2017 appointment to the federal bench as an appeals court judge.

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