Thursday, May 28, 2009


Political Mayhem Thursday: Picking a Justice

It is looking like the Republicans will not set out to filibuster the Sotomayor nomination to the Supreme Court, but do plan tough questioning. I think that sounds reasonable. I do have some thoughts on the process, in part based on the discussion here a few days ago:

1) I don't think political ideology is a reason to reject a nominee. I think Robert Bork was rejected on that basis, and that was wrong.

2) Not every nominee is qualified in terms of experience. Most recently, Harriet Meiers just did not have the qualifications that would have shown her to have the level of analysis and writing that we expect on the Court. That is to say that she did not have public work product that we could look at and say "she's sharp." Bork had that, in spades.

3) With Sotomayor, every Justice but one will be a graduate of Harvard and Yale law schools. I do think that is a problem, because more educational diversity would be an advantage in the same way other forms of diversity are a positive thing.

I concur with Justice Osler completely. Elections have consequences. The Republicans lost so the Democrats get to nomimate and confirm this pick. Ask tough questions so as to make a record and to be sure she isn't hiding something then move.

A Supreme Court nomination battle will not help the GOP in the next elections.

Bork was unfairly Borked.

Yeah, what's up with this Yale/Harvard thing? An Excellent GPA in College and high LSAT scores (plus a pile of money or a scholarship) seem to be the keys. I am sure a Judge who went to Baylor or William & Mary or many other schools would be just as good.

And Sotomayer has been a Judge for a long time. I like the Roberts choice because he had only moved from the bar to the bench a few years ago. He still remembered what it was like to actually have to be an advocate.

FDR nominated people from several different jobs, including Federal appointees and elected officials.
It would be great to have more educational diversity on the court, but I would imagine that judges or experienced lawyers who would have the kind of experience necessary for the Supreme Court tend to get most of that experience because of where they graduated from law school--as has been discussed here before.

Law professors come from the Ivy League, and Ivy League grads seem to get the plum clerkships and other jobs right out of law school, which leads to more better jobs . . .at least, that's my impression looking in from the outside.

So I would imagine that the whole institutional thinking about which law schools to hire from would have to change, and the practice of hiring would have to change, before you'd see the trend toward appointing non-Ivy League grads change.

And I think diversity of gender and socio-economic/ethnic background probably has more effects on a person than diversity of law school, because those are characteristics that are with you every minute of your life, shaping you before you go to law school.

Anyway, yes, I think any kind of attempt at diversity is a good thing.
Political ideology is the most legitimate reason to vote no on a judicial nominee, seems to me, given their lifetime appointments. Whether or not a nominee is "qualified" is a pass/fail determination. But when it comes to political beliefs there really is room for evaluation of the particular impact and influence a nominee can have on the Court and country. Politics is certainly a much better reason to reject a potential Justice than something as mundane as smoking pot with college students.
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