The lack of diversity within the Supreme Court community persists. This may explain why lawyers and court aficionados carefully scrutinize the “hearing list” that the court releases to the public a few days before the start of each round of oral argument.
It lists all the lawyers who will be at the desk (i.e. hearings) and there is often a rush to see how many lawyers are white, male, female, or colored.
For example, on October 1, several Supreme Court observers tweeted about the list of unholy hours hearings, indicating how many lawyers are arguing and what their gender or ethnicity might be. Early that morning, Amy Howe of SCOTUSBlog exclaimed that for October pleadings 20 lawyers will be speaking, including seven women, including two from the Solicitor General’s office.
Later that day, however, Alan Mygatt-Tauber, a Washington state-based solo appeals lawyer, posted a more powerful attorney tally on Twitter. Instead of just numbers, Mygatt-Tauber put together a collage of photos of every lawyer due to litigate during the October cycle. Viewing facial photos is a whole different experience in assessing the Supreme Court Practitioner Cohort:
SCOTUS has finally released an audience list for the October session. 20 avocados. A surprising diversity, including 7 women and 2 women of color! pic.twitter.com/6BZsLNRWP3
– Alan Mygatt-Tauber (@AMTAappeals) October 2, 2021
Accompanying the photo collage, Mygatt-Tauber reported on Twitter: “SCOTUS has finally released an audience list for the October session. 20 avocados. A surprising diversity, including 7 women and 2 women of color!
The photo collage features familiar faces like David Frederick, partner at Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick; Jeff Fisher of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School; and Neal Katyal, partner at Hogan Lovells. But there are also several new advocates, including at least one, if not two, women of color: Fadwa Hammond, solicitor general of Michigan, and Tasha Bahal, lawyer at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.
Mygatt-Tauber, a semi-professional photographer, has been collecting photos of future Supreme Court attorneys since the March 2021 session. Additionally, he’s since gone as far as 2018 for similar collages of attorneys for each cycle of argumentation. He finds the photos on law firm websites and C-SPAN snapshots, among other sources.
Why did he undertake this project? In an interview, Mygatt-Tauber said listening to Leah Litman, Kate Shaw and Melissa Murray on their Strict Scrutiny podcast had forced him to use photography to visualize their frequent discussions about the lack of diversity in the High Court and elsewhere.
“I thought about it and felt like it was one thing to hear those numbers, but the photograph has such visual significance to me,” he said. “Think about the impact that a photo can have and that a picture is worth a thousand words. “
With the photograph, he added, “You can really see how at the top levels we’re still very white, we’re still very male, and we’re still very male white. I think in the last three terms, if memory serves, only one woman of color has appeared in the High Court. I refuse to believe that there is only one woman of color who has reached the level where she would argue in the Supreme Court.
He has also produced photographic groupings of Solicitors General throughout history and of lawyers invited by the court to appear when one side or the other of a case has backed down. Separately, he also produced a portfolio titled “What Does a Lawyer Look Like”.
Kate Shaw, Professor of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School, praised Mygatt-Tauber’s work: “It is sometimes difficult to effectively translate court work to the public, and I think part of it is. because it is difficult to produce visual stories on the Search. That’s why I think his projects are so valuable – they convey, through purely visual storytelling, what a small, cohesive group judges hear when deciding issues of tremendous importance to the whole country.