This chapter examines the social and political backgrounds of state supreme court justices. The literature outlined in Chapter I suggests two important reasons for the study of judicial backgrounds: the representativeness of the judges of the diversity of the American population and the effect of social backgrounds on the development of attitudes which may influence decision-making on the bench. I would like to propose a third reason for the study of judicial backgrounds. I believe that the high degree of similarity in the backgrounds of state supreme court justices--as well as the standardization of career patterns--may be viewed in the light of Polsby ( 1968) concept of "institutionalization" as applied to the state judiciary. 1
The data on the judicial backgrounds were drawn from the capsule biographies contained in The American Bench and Who's Who, while the data on formal recruitment were drawn from the 1976 and 1978 editions of State Court Systems, a publication of the Council on State Government. A total of 245 biographies were coded for 1975 and 270 for 1977. These figures represent 76.7 percent of all state court of last resort justices for the year 1975 and 82.8 percent for 1977. Each state supreme court is represented by at least two justices in both years. Please note that both Texas and Oklahoma have two courts of last resort, one committed to criminal appeals, the other to civil. This data set contains information for only the civil appeals courts for both states.
Of course, it can be argued (and this point is readily conceded) that a