More and more, well known media outlets are turning to surveys conducted by FindLaw.com for the numbers that illustrate what Americans are really thinking about the legal issues confronting us right now. The most recent survey from FindLaw.com asked people, can you name one Supreme Court Justice? The answer for nearly two thirds of those polled was “no.” According to the FindLaw survey, only 35 percent of Americans can name one Supreme Court Justice. Only 1 percent can name all nine.

These results are important, even alarming, and the media picked up the story. From The Huffington Post, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, to the ABA Law Journal, and Yahoo! News, many outlets turned to FindLaw to get the numbers. Even Chris Matthews of Hardball, With Chris Matthews, quoted the FindLaw survey findings on his show, saying it was his “big number,” and the “hard to believe” number for the night.

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Although completing her nomination process just recently, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the United States’ first Latina Supreme Court Justice, did not top the list of the most memorable Supreme Court Justices. That honor instead went to Justice Clarence Thomas, at 19 percent. Here is how the rest of the justices fared, when it came to being recognized by the American public:

•Clarence Thomas – 19%
•John Roberts – 16%
•Sonia Sotomayor – 15%
•Ruth Bader Ginsburg – 13%
•Antonin Scalia – 10%
•Samuel Alito – 8%
•John Paul Stevens – 8%
•Anthony Kennedy – 6%
•Stephen Breyer – 3%

However, not everyone is concerned by the results of the survey. “This result is not especially surprising nor, by itself, should it be alarming,” said Michael C. Dorf, a former Supreme Court clerk who currently teaches constitutional law at Cornell University Law School and authors a legal column for FindLaw. “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.”

Michelle Croteau, Director Marketing Communications
with Tanya Roth, FindLaw Portal Team

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