Friday, March 24, 2017

Benjamin Button and The Supreme Court

(Benjamin Button was the F. Scott Fitzgerald character who grew from old to young.)

Over the history of the United States, there have been 114 Supreme Court Justices including 3 living and retired and 8 living and serving.

Neil Gorsuch, if he were to be confirmed and sworn in on April 1st, would be 49 years 7 months and 2 days in age, the 29th youngest. While that might not sound too drastic on the young side, 13 of the 28 youngest justices were born in the 18th century. Among those born from the start of the 20th century, only 4 have been younger.

The four youngest Supreme Court Justices, all of those sworn in while they were in their thirties, were born in the 18th century. In terms of life expectancy, the most recent justices have been the youngest justices in history. This trend is especially true for the recent Republican appointees. Clarence Thomas was the second youngest justice sworn in since 1853. John Roberts became the youngest Chief Justice of the Supreme Court since 1801.

Dividing the group up into quartiles we have the following.
The average age at time of being sworn in versus age at death for Supreme Court Justices, 1789 to present. The time periods have been divided into quartiles (28 to 29 justices). The difference is the number of years lived between being sworn in and death.

In the first period the average age was just under fifty. This increased to over fifty-five in the third period and then declined again more recently. In the meantime, life expectancy, determined by how long the justices actually did live, increased from 70 to 80 years. (I was surprised those born in the 18th century lived to 70.) Eleven of the twelve most recent appointees are still living and their deaths did not figure into the fourth quartile figures.)

From the above graph we can see there was little change in life expectancy from the age of being sworn in, until the fourth quartile in which case the justices got younger while the life expectancy continued to increase.

Since January 1972, when two of Nixon's candidates were confirmed to the Supreme Court, the majority of the court have come from Republican presidents. That would have changed in 2016 with the nomination of Merrick Garland (then 63 years old). No hearings were given to the nomination.

The Republican's long run has been in part due to chance of history (ten consecutive justices between 1969 and 1991), the refusal to hold hearings, and the young age of the Republican candidates. The last of these three allowed those sitting to continue serving for a longer period of time.

Ages of Supreme Court justices at the time of being sworn in since the beginning of the Republican-appointed majority in 1972. Red were selected by Republican presidents; blue by Democratic presidents. [Gorsuch] is pending.

Over this period the average age of a Republican judge at the time of being sworn in was 52.2 years and the average age of a Democratic nominee was 55.4. The 52.2 years drops to 50.8 years if the first selection, Powell is removed. The Republicans have been putting forward nominees 3 years younger to 4.6 years younger by the latter criterion.

Neil Gorsuch is under 50 years of age. The last time a Democratic president had a Supreme Court Justice under fifty was in 1962.

The Excel files of all ages are available by request.

 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
Barnes and Noble 


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