Appointing Homogeneity

I’ve posted several articles criticizing the Philippine Supreme Court. One aspect I haven’t covered is the background of the justices themselves. In a new article in the Asian Journal of Comparative Law, Dante B. Gatmaytan and Cielo Magno argue that the justices overwhelmingly come from the same socioeconomic class. In fact, over 75% were graduates of the University of the Philippines. Moreover, all of the presidents since Marcos have drawn from this same pool, with little statistically significant difference between them on most factors.

Interestingly, some groups in the Philippines have proposed raising the threshold for disqualification for applicants to the Supreme Court. The proposal would allow more and more diverse candidates to apply. However, in a speech to the Judicial and Bar Council, Chief Justice Corona rejected the reforms as simply encouraging underqualified to waste the committee’s time.

Of course, one underlying question is how much diversity should be on the bench? As Ran Hirschl argues, more so than the political branches of government, judiciaries tend to attract lawyers with elite, non-populist backgrounds. Moreover, when political leaders face pressure from the bar and legal advocates, they also face pressure to appoint highly qualified individuals. These requirements already impose several filters on the types of individuals who reach the supreme court. Indeed, on the U.S. Supreme Court, despite the increased gender and racial diversity, all of the sitting justices attended Harvard or Yale…

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