Monday, May 04, 2009

A Different Take on Supreme Court Appointments

Rumors are swirling about possible picks for the Supreme Court seat about to be vacated by Justice David Souter. Conventional wisdom says that the pick will probably be a woman, given the Court's blatant lack of gender diversity. The pick will probably also have served as a federal appellate judge since that has been the career path of most recent appointees. University of Maryland School of Law Professor Sherrilynn Ifill, however, advocates a different approach. In her article, Professor Ifill argues that the current justices are "representative of a very narrow slice of the [legal] profession." Missing from the ranks of possible appointees are "[s]tate court judges, full-time law professors, former criminal defense attorneys, even civil practice trial lawyers ..." She believes that the unique perspective of those who understand what it takes to prepare and put on a case are lacking among those who sit on the Court today. While racial and gender diversity is important, so is professional diversity. Professor Ifill makes an interesting argument that I have not heard anyone else make. It is useful to remember that some of our greatest justices had not been federal appellate court judges before their appointment to the Supreme Court. For example, Justice William Brennan was serving on the New Jersey Supreme Court at the time of his appointment, and Justice Felix Frankfurter was teaching at Harvard Law School.

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