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9 Depressing Facts About the Supreme Court Justices

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

It's an exciting time to be a SCOTUS fan. There are Scalia dolls being sold, Sotomayor danced salsa for the Nine, and Ginsburg is learning about gansta rap. Even Clarence Thomas is making some headlines!

But let's not forget, life -- and the Court -- isn't always pleasing. As Nietzsche said: "Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man." We at FindLaw couldn't agree more.

So, in the spirit of German nihilism and full, balanced listicle-making, here are nine depressing facts about the nine Supreme Court Justices:

1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg Was Insulted by Harvard Law Dean

A pioneer for women in the law and on the Court, Justice Ginsburg was one of only nine women in her Harvard Law School class of 500. While studying the law, Ginsburg was also raising children, helping run the Harvard Law Review, and shepherding her husband through cancer treatment. She, like all the other ladies, was asked why she was taking the place of a man -- by the dean. Ouch.

Thankfully, that form of sexism is long dead in the legal profession.

2. Antonin Scalia Was a Loner

Scalia is, statistically speaking, the funniest Justice on the bench. What sort of pain does that humor cover up? Perhaps the pain of being desperately alone as a child. Scalia attended a Jesuit-run military school in Manhattan where he was, as he says, "not a cool kid." Instead of making friends in that parochial hell, he turned to religion and academics -- excelling in those, if not the social sphere.

Sure, he's a Supreme Court Justice, but who did he bring to prom?

3. John Roberts Triumphed Through Tragedy

Roberts only became Chief Justice because his mentor died. When Roberts was first considered for a seat on the Court, he was meant to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who Roberts clerked for, died at the same time, prompting President George W. Bush to nominate Roberts as Chief.

We're not saying the Chief Justice is responsible for anyone's demise, but we're also not saying he's not.

4. Elana Kagan Was Almost But Not Quite Equal

As a child, Kagan wasn't afraid to fight for what she wanted and that included having the first ritual bat mitzvah at her Orthodox synagogue. That Jewish rite of passage was often denied young women, but a 12 year-old Kagan insisted that Rabi Shlomo Riskin perform one for her. She got her wish, and set precedent in her synagogue, but had to have her ceremony on a Friday night, instead of the traditional Saturday. That's a win, but also pretty fakakta.

5. Anthony Kennedy Is the "Poor" One

Sure, he's the deciding vote in many of the Court's most important cases. But he's also the poorest Justice. Kennedy is the only non-millionaire Supreme Court Justice, reporting a net worth in 2013 of just $330,000 to $700,000 (not including his mansion). Maybe he's still paying off his law school loans?

6. Sonia Sotomayor Faced Gangs in Bronx Housing Projects

The Supreme Court's first Nuyorican Justice, Sotomayor didn't have the easiest childhood. Her father struggled with alcohol, and she struggled with the gangs that dominated her public housing projects in the Bronx. On top of all that, she was diagnosed with diabetes at age nine. Despite the struggles -- and insulin shots -- she seems to have made it out alright.

7. Stephen Breyer Chose the Boring Life

Breyer's mom forced him to go to Stanford for undergrad, as she worried that Harvard would make him too bookish. Breyer showed her. After drinking himself through college -- he was allegedly arrested repeatedly for underaged drinking -- he made it to Harvard for law school, clerked for the Supreme Court, worked on the Warren Commission, and then went on to master administrative law, literally the world's most boring practice area. How depressing is that?

8. Samuel Alito Fears Gay Revenge

Scalia II was a bit more libertarian in his youth. As a Princeton undergrad, he famously hosted a student conference on privacy which resulted in a call for decriminalizing homosexuality. Since then, he's become a bit more traditionally conservative. And now, after dissenting in Obergefell, he'll spend his nights worrying if the gay inquisition will come after him. As he wrote in that dissent, "recalling the harsh treatment of gays and lesbians in the past, some may think that turn-about is fair play." Indeed.

9. Clarence Thomas Goes on Sad Vacations

This is actually depressing. One of Justice Thomas's favorite activities is camping in Walmart parking lots. We are not making this up.

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