Thursday, July 14, 2005

"Elected" to fill O'Connor's seat?

As I drove home yesterday and heard details of POTUS' comments to the press following his cabinet meeting yesterday morning, I heard that he is mulling replacing Associate Justice O'Connor with an elected official.

I don't understand, why would we want someone who's never written an opinion or handed down a verdict in their entire lives to deliberate and decide the most important cases in the nation? In fact, of the justices on the current court, only "The Chief" had never been a judge before ascending to the SCOTUS (he was an assistant US A.G. when Nixon tapped him in '71).

It seems, however, that history is on Bush's side.
Of the 108 people who have served on the Supreme Court, only 48 - fewer than half - were drawn from the ranks of sitting judges. And while judges do make up the biggest single biographical category, there have also been 25 practicing lawyers, 9 attorneys general or deputy attorneys general, 7 holders of other cabinet positions, 6 senators, 2 members of the House of Representatives, 3 governors, 2 solicitors general and 2 law professors.
While I still think it's important to have a judge fill the seat, especially when any "elected" is likely to be a partisan hack who'll be susceptible to political pot shots from the left during his/her confirmation hearings, it's clearly not that simple. I'd still prefer to see a judge. And if not now, I think that whoever replaces The Chief upon his retirement should absolutely have a judicial background.

UPDATE: In a great piece, David Brooks argues in favor of "a philosophical powerhouse," someone "capable of writing the sort of bold and meaty opinions that will shift the frame of debate and shake up law students for generations." Someone like Michael McConnell who has an excellent record on church-state issues. I hope they're circulating the article in the West Wing today.


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