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Supreme Court Justices Largely Anonymous, Poll Finds

Results of a survey released Monday show nearly two-thirds of Americans are unable to name a single member of the U.S. Supreme Court and just 1 percent can correctly name all nine Supreme Court justices.

Findlaw.com ‘s poll of 1,000 demographicaly-balanced Americans found  just 35 percent of respondents could correctly identify a member of the U.S. high court, despite the fact Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is awaiting Senate confirmation to replace retiring justice John Paul Stevens.

The most well-recognized justice, according to the survey, is Clarence Thomas, who was correctly identified by 19 percent of respondents. He was followed by John Roberts (16 percent), Sonia Sotomayor (15 percent), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (13 percent), Antonin Scalia (10 percent), Samuel Alito (8 percent), John Paul Stevens (8 percent), Anthony Kennedy (6 percent) and Stephen Breyer (3 percent).

Michael C. Dorf, a former Supreme Court clerk who currently teaches constitutional law at Cornell University Law School, commented on the findings in a press release.

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“This result is not especially surprising nor, by itself, should it be alarming,” Dorf said.

“Even though Supreme Court rulings can have a major impact on contentious issues such as the death penalty, abortion rights, discrimination and environmental protection, the Court issues its rulings as a collective body. After their 15 minutes before the Senate Judiciary Committee are up, Supreme Court justices rarely appear on television. What is a source for concern are polls consistently showing that many Americans are unfamiliar with basic features of our constitutional system.”

The FindLaw.com survey has a margin of error of plus-or-minus three percent.

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