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Former jobs of every Supreme Court justice

  • Stephen Breyer: Early career life

    In 1964, Breyer clerked for Associate Justice Arthur Goldberg and later worked in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice as a special assistant to the assistant attorney general. In 1967 he began teaching at his alma mater, Harvard Law School, and later worked as an assistant prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force in 1973.

    He served as special counsel, and later as chief counsel, to the Administrative Practices Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He collaborated with the committee’s chairman Edward M. Kennedy to execute the Airline Deregulation Act.

  • Stephen Breyer: Before the Supreme Court

    In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed Breyer to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, where he later served as chief judge from 1990 to 1994. As a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 1985 to 1989, Breyer played an instrumental part in reshaping criminal sentencing procedures on the federal level, as well as creating the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

    Following the retirement of Harry Blackmun, President Bill Clinton nominated Breyer to the position of associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1994. He was confirmed the same year. As a Supreme Court judge, Breyer maintains a pragmatic approach to law, and looks to "purpose and consequences" in interpreting laws. He has uniformly voted to support abortion rights and has largely deferred to Congress, hardly ever voting to reverse congressional legislation.

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Education

    This second ever female Supreme Court Judge earned a B.A. in government from Cornell. Ruth Bader Ginsburg then enrolled in Harvard Law School in 1956 and transferred to Columbia Law School when her husband took a job in New York. While at Harvard, she was one of nine women out of a class of 500 men. Ginsburg was the first woman to serve on two leading law reviews—both the Harvard Law Review and Columbia Law Review. She shared the spot as first in her class when she earned her law degree from Columbia in ‘59.

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Early career life

    As a young aspiring lawyer, Ginsburg ran into challenges finding a job because of her sex, but eventually got a clerkship with Edmund Palmieri on the heels of a recommendation from Columbia Law professor Gerald Gunther. In her role as a professor at Rutgers Law School in 1963, she received lower pay than her male counterparts.

    She co-founded the Women's Rights Law Reporter in 1970, the first American law journal to center exclusively on women’s rights. Two years later, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, which, in tandem with related projects, engaged in over 300 cases involving gender discrimination by 1974. She won five out of the six gender discrimination cases she argued between 1973 and 1976.

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Before the Supreme Court

    Prior to her tenure as a Supreme Court justice, Ginsburg served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 1980 to 1993, under the nomination of President Jimmy Carter. During this time, Ginsburg frequently sided with her fellow judges, including conservatives Robert H. Bork and Antonin Scalia. As such, she was regarded as a moderate judge upon her nomination to the Supreme Court in 1993.

    President Bill Clinton referred to her as "‘a healer and consensus builder." At the time, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno recommended Ginsberg to Clinton. She was the second female justice on the Supreme Court, and the first Jewish female justice. Though quiet on some issues like the death penalty, Ginsberg has professed her support of a constitutional right to privacy as well as her opinions on gender equality.

  • Neil Gorsuch: Education

    Neil Gorsuch received his B.A. in political science from Columbia in 1988, followed by a J.D. from Harvard in 1991, and finally, a Ph.D. in law from Oxford in 2004. While at Columbia, he wrote for the Columbia Daily Spectator and co-founded an alternative student newspaper called The Fed, as well as the magazine The Morningside Review. At Harvard, Gorsuch worked as an editor for the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy and was described as conservative amidst a student population of "ardent liberals," according to the Boston Globe’s Michael Levenson.

  • Neil Gorsuch: Early career life

    After completing a judicial clerkship for SCOTUS Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, Gorsuch practiced commercial law at Kellogg Huber, where he worked on securities fraud, antitrust, and contracts cases. In the case of Dura Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v Broudo, Gorsuch communicated that he believed that securities fraud litigation is burdensome to the economy.

    He also worked as principal deputy to Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he worked on civil litigation cases, as well as terror litigation related to President Bush’s War on Terror. Generally, Gorsuch is a constitutional originalist, which is to say that he believes that the constitution should be deciphered as it was originally written.

  • Neil Gorsuch: Before the Supreme Court

    Before his confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice, Gorsuch spent 11 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. In this role, in the case of Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius, Gorsuch wrote a concurrence—or an attempt to prove both guilty action and guilty mind—when the en banc circuit determined that the Affordable Care Act law requiring employers to provide their employees with health insurance that partially covers contraception violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

    Politically, Gorsuch supports a broad interpretation of freedom of religion. David Savage of the Los Angeles Times described him as "a libertarian who is quick to oppose unchecked government power." Trump nominated Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in February 2017, and while the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination, Democrats filibustered until Republicans broke it with a simple majority vote and confirmed Gorsuch to the SCOTUS.

  • Elena Kagan: Education

    Elena Kagan graduated from Princeton in 1981, received an M.Phil. from Oxford’s Worcester College as a Daniel M. Sachs Graduating Fellow in ‘83, and earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School in ‘86, graduating magna cum laude. At Princeton, Kagan was the editorial chair of The Daily Princetonian, and in collaboration with several other students, wrote a Declaration of the Campaign for a Democratic University, which detailed a need to retool university governance on a core level.

    At Worcester College, Kagan wrote a thesis on “The Development and Erosion of the American Exclusionary Rule: A Study in Judicial Method.” At Harvard, she worked as supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review. She was described as being good with people and gained the respect of everyone despite divisive political views on campus.

  • Elena Kagan: Early career life

    In 1987 Kagan clerked for Judge Abner J. Mikva on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and a year later clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall on the U.S. Supreme Court. As a lawyer for the D.C. firm Williams & Connolly, Kagan worked on five lawsuits rooted in issues of the First Amendment and media law. In the early 1990s, she took a job as an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School, where she published an influential law review article in which she argued that the SCOTUS should investigate governmental motives when dealing with cases concerning the First Amendment. Two years after she got her assistant professorship, Joe Biden appointed her as special counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she played a part in the confirmation hearings of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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