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Women Are Dominating the Supreme Court (Sort of. For Now.)

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 14, 2016 12:05 PM

If you've been following Supreme Court oral arguments this term, you might have noticed something slightly different: a large influx of women advocates. Almost half of the lawyers arguing before the Court in its October cycle were women.

The amount of women appearing before the Supreme Court is unprecedented, and it comes at a time when the Supreme Court itself has its greatest percentage of female justices ever, with the potential that women could soon become a majority on the Court.

Eight of 18

Eight of the 18 attorneys appearing before the Court in its first eight oral arguments of the term were women, as the National Law Journal's Tony Mauro noted last week. That near-parity is something incredibly unusual in the Court, whose most frequent advocates make up an almost entirely male cohort.

Sixty-six attorneys regularly appear before the Supreme Court, a 2014 report by Reuters found, and they're hardly a model of diversity. Out of that 66, only eight are women, only three are not white, and only 11 do not represent primarily corporate clients.

So the introduction of so many new, female voices to the Court's arguments certainly feels like a breath of fresh air.

Only two of the women who argued this October cycle came from firms that regularly argue before the Court, Mauro noted. That includes Lisa Blatt of Arnold & Porter, who has argued more cases before the Supreme Court than any other woman ever -- 34 in total. In contrast, Koren Bell, who argued before the Court in a recent bank fraud case, works as a federal public defender, though she is about to join the boutique firm Wilkinson Walsh & Eskovitz, Mauro reports.

The trend towards gender parity in oral arguments, sadly, is not expected to continue throughout the term. November's arguments see a return to a more male-dominate oral argument docket.

Four of Eight (and Maybe Five of Nine)

As those women argued before the Supreme Court this cycle, they did so before the most female Supreme Court bench in history. When Justice Kagan joined the Court in 2010, she became the fourth woman on the Court and the fifth female justice ever. (That's five out of 112 justices, for those of you keeping score.)

Now that there is a vacant seat on the Supreme Court, the female justices make up an equal percentage of the Court for the first time.

It's possible, too, that women may become a majority on the Supreme Court in the near future. With Merrick Garland's nomination stalled, the next president may get to pick Justice Scalia's replacement.

Donald Trump has listed 21 (or is it 20?) potential SCOTUS nominees, though only four are women.

Hillary Clinton has been more circumspect about her potential picks, but should she nominate a woman to the bench, the highest court in the land will be helmed by a female majority, for the first time in herstory.

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