Saturday, October 22, 2005

Good Characteristics of a Supreme Court Justice Nominee

Diversity? Sure. A good thing, if we are not carried away.

So, these are some good things to consider, among many, when choosing a Justice:

(In no particular order.)

1. Geography. Two seats held by Justices who experienced life in the western states both opened this year. A westerner would be good. Texas is fine, or Colorado, Utah, Washington state, Alaska, or Hawaii. There are differences if outlook and attitude in different areas. Justices spend most of their time in the D.C. world. A justice from Cody Wyoming might bring insights and balance. And what about the South? Would a Southern Bell from South Carolina have different experiences? Sure.

2. Schools. Harvard and Yale are overrepresented on courts at all levels and in the D.C. power elite. Enough already! SMU is good, as would be Auburn or Arizona, Baylor or Brigham Young, Carolina or California, Drake or Duke, Eureka or Eastern Kentucky, and the list goes on. Endlessly. The two departing justices were classmates at Stanford. Good enough, because it is not too common among the D.C. elite. But it would be better if one had gone to Arizona.

3. Sex. Another woman is better than another man.

4. Race/religion/cultural/nationality background. Add in any other factors along this line. An immigrant from Cuba, Vietnam, or Mexico? Why not? I like that idea. But, they would have to be very serious about this country, our history, and law. Immigrants or the next generation would be good element to mix into the court. Black, oriental, Hispanic, or whatever. Differences are good. Religious diversity is good too. An evangelical would be good to have on the court. But there are many religions that are not represented on the court. Atheist, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist. . . The list is long, and it is hard to know how to assess religion as a factor. There is the Constitutional religious test prohibition, but religion has been a factor. Some variety is good.

6. Age. Another younun like the Chief would be good. Maybe one younger. But, maybe the lifetime term makes their tenure too long. Would it be nice to have a 45 year old with one 15 year term? I think so. As it is, we must go young for the youth or old to prevent extreme tenure. Not a perfect choice.

7. Experience. There are many paths. But perhaps they should all go through the federal court of appeals, just for practice. Roberts had two years on the D.C. Circuit. That seems perfect. A newly elected President can appoint SCOTUS candidates to courts of appeals, not just to see how they do, but to get their feet wet. It may not give enough time for much of a record, but they will learn a great deal. That experience is a huge plus. But if it is too long, there were not enough years for other experience. Experience in law is good. Here the example that impresses me is the Justice from Arizona. She practiced in a small office representing regular folks with regular problems. That is the pinnacle of law practice, and far better experience that practice in a huge firm. A general practice would be ideal. Some family law, contracts, wills, estates, criminal prosecution and defense, and civil disputes, trials, and appeals. Few get that varied experience now. That is too bad. Is writing a will for Walt Smith less impressive than repeatedly representing Walt Disney in Texas by claiming that it is not a Texan? I think not. I like lawyers representing people, not just entities. Teaching law would be a plus, with a variety of courses ldeal. But, also teaching first grade, high school government, or Sunday school. We learn from our experiences. Writing for a newspaper, or a high school newspaper can allow us to learn the skill of writing, thinking, and organizing thoughts. How do you describe the pass the quarterback threw that won the game? Do you use the word cabin, saying the defense cabined the quarterback? If so you write like many of the current justices. Is your writing designed to communicate, or to impress? Is it about you, or the substance? Too often the elites write to impress others with their sophistication. Cabined? Nuts! If you can write a good newspaper story, you might be able to write a good opinion. Can the same be said for a law review article? What about farming and practicing law at the same time, preparing income taxes, appraising houses, flying an airplane, prosecuting and advising local government. One lawyer can do all that at the same time. I have known one who did.

Just 7 factors. Among 100s to consider. Worth pondering.

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