Elena Kagan's Effect on the Supreme Court

Having three women will change the way it asks questions.

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According to USA Today, Ginsburg replied that school officials had ordered Redding "to shake [her] bra out, to shake, shake, stretch the top of [her] pants." Ginsburg explained, "Maybe a 13-year-old boy in a locker room doesn't have that same feeling about his body. But a girl who's just at the age where she is developing, whether she has developed a lot … or … has not developed at all [might be] embarrassed about that." As for the men on the court, "They have never been a 13-year-old girl," she said. "It's a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn't think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood." One thing Kagan, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor have in common is that they're all former 13-year-old girls.

Ginsburg's views had a big influence on her colleagues, who ended up siding with Redding by a vote of 8 to 1. In his majority opinion, Justice David Souter called strip-searching a middle-school girl to look for ibuprofen "embarrassing, frightening, and humiliating." Having one woman on the court asking questions made a difference; imagine what effect three women will have.

We can argue over Kagan's politics, but there's no doubt her presence will begin to subtly shift the court. Having a critical mass of women quizzing defense lawyers differently from their brethren will bring new perspectives to the justices' decision-making. These sorts of changes have already been felt in workplaces as diverse as newsrooms and boardrooms—and now they will occur within the marble chambers of the Supreme Court.

  • Check out our editorial cartoons on Elena Kagan's Supreme Court nomination.
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