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Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Can't Name Any U.S. Supreme Court Justices, Says FindLaw Survey


MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., June 20, 2003 – Sixty-three percent of American adults cannot recall the names of any of the nine justices currently serving on the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a new national survey. The survey conducted by FindLaw, the leading legal Web site, found that only 35 percent of American adults could name at least one current Supreme Court justice. Less than one percent could correctly name all nine justices.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, was the justice most frequently identified, followed by Justice Clarence Thomas, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist. The percentages of Americans who could name each justice were as follows:

25% Sandra Day O'Connor
21% Clarence Thomas
10% William Rehnquist
9% Antonin Scalia
9% Ruth Bader Ginsburg
4% David Souter
4% Anthony Kennedy
2% Stephen Breyer
1% John Paul Stevens

"The results of the survey are disappointing, but not surprising," said Professor Stephen Presser of Northwestern University School of Law. "I suspect that the American public generally believes that it doesn't really matter much who serves on the Supreme Court, because they believe the Court is objectively applying the Constitution and laws when it makes a decision. The truth of the matter is, it makes an enormous amount of difference who serves on the Court. Our political parties are very much divided over whether judges should passively follow the law or legislate from the bench, with President Bush committed to appointing judges who will promise not to legislate from the bench, and Senate Democrats committed to opposing his nominees. This is an issue that ought to be of great concern to the public, but really hasn't attracted much attention."

During its current session, the Supreme Court heard cases involving university race-based admissions policies, abortion protests, restrictions on Internet access in public libraries and laws banning cross burnings. Information including U.S. Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1893, profiles of Justices, court calendars, briefs and listings of current cases can be found at FindLaw ( Detailed results of the survey can be found at

The national survey used a representative sample of 1,000 adults nationwide, with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

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