Ben Buchwalter

Best Fit Justice
May 4, 2009, 4:23 pm
Filed under: General Politics, Supreme Court | Tags: , ,

Ezra Klein brings up a pretty good point about the debate going on right now over who Obama should appoint to the Supreme Court. So often, when lawmakers are asked what kinds of candidates Obama should consider, they respond that past experience should be high on the list. The success or failure of past judges, though, is rarely related to the experience they had before they joined the Court.

Instead, liberals will view Justices as successful if they fight for the right to privacy and erode some of the most outdated aspects of our legal system that harm minorities and women. Conservatives, on the other hand, will respect judges with a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

Obama seems to understand this. In his statement about Souter’s retirement, he said he would look for justices with a “quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes.”

So, as Klein points out, Obama should not look for the most experienced judge, but rather the best fit for a 21st century court. It’s like applying to college. Aiming for an Ivy League school will do little for your education if it is not the best fit and you cannot do the work.

This argument suggests that Obama should, as many have already argued, appoint a woman, an African American or a Hispanic to the Supreme Court, even if there are some white men out there who are “better qualified.”

Klein concludes that the Supreme Court

is responsible for a country that’s 51 percent female and whose law graduates are 48 percent female. Its highest profile cases revolve exclusively around things that happen in a woman’s body. If we were aware of those facts and were stocking the Court from scratch, there is no doubt that we would strive for more gender balance.

Viewed from that perspective, the situation clarifies considerably. The reason white men are disadvantaged in this nomination process is pretty simple: They are not, right now, what the Court needs. They are not the best candidates for the job. This has never been a search for the right brain in the right vat. But if Obama does add a bit of gender diversity to the Court, he’ll be doing something we’ve not seen in some time: making his choice at least partly on the needs of the institution rather than basing his decision solely on the interests of his party.


1 Comment so far
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Wonderful concept.

Comment by lisabu

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