Justice David Souter is rumored to be retiring from the Supreme Court. Appointed by President George H. W. Bush, Souter has surprised everyone with his more liberal perspective on the constitution. There will be pressure on President Obama to appoint a woman or a Hispanic – political pressure is always present. President Bush the First also appointed Justice Thomas – some say to satisfy the African-American community. Justice Thomas is arguably the weakest intellect every appointed to the court. The current Supreme Court is the only court in recent memory to have no former candidates for political office. Is this important?
Barack Obama is a Constitutional Lawyer – teaching Law at Chicago University. President Obama should be able to interview candidates and judge their interpretation of the constitution. A candidate’s resume will, with work experience and education clearly ascertained.
But we ask this – should a Supreme Court Appointment be measured on academic achievement, on history in the Jucicial System – perhaps with experience as a Federal District Judge? Possibly. Should a Supreme Court Justice be measured against preconceived ideas about specific political issues, like abortion or the death penalty or legalized torture? We think not. And should a Supreme Court justice candidate have any experience as a politician?
Why would we ask about political experience? It seems to this writer that perhaps a Superme Court Justice who has served in an Executive or Legislative postition would have a much more sensitive perspective about the other branches of our government.
In the current environment there are some candidates with stellar public service records. Hillary Clinton comes to mind. She is certainly bright and a hard worker – and she has been elected twice by the people of New York to the United States Senate. Does that mean anything? Is there value beyond the experience of a Federal District Judge? She certainly respects the office of the President, and she equally respects the hard work of the legislative branch. She understand political motivation in passing new laws – laws that might one day be challenged before the Supreme Court.
We are not advocating for Hillary Clinton – we are merely using her as an example of the value of previous experience in politics.
A Supreme Court appointment is for life – this is a big deal. These honorable people interpret law, determining wheeether a law is constitutional or not. There is no appeal beyond the Supreme Court. Their say is final – and their say often directly impacts future court decisions. The court has never been inclined to overturn previous court decisions – it happens – but not very often.
Surely there is a candidate out there with good legal credentials, and with credentials in another branch of government.