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filmfann's avatar

What credentials/background should the new Supreme Court nominee have?

Asked by filmfann (40185 points ) April 11th, 2010

John Paul Stevens is retiring. He is currently the only Justice on that court with a military background. He is also the only Protestant. (The others are Jewish and Catholic)
Should this be a consideration for the nominee?
Should an atheist be nominated?
We currently have one black, one hispanic, and two women on the court. Does there need to be a quota on anything?
All the current justices have a background on the bench. Is that a requirement?

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43 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

It would be nice if we just had a seasoned jurist who wasn’t co-opted by partisanship to the point where he or she disregarded the Constitution and stare decisis.

talljasperman's avatar

Law degree… clean criminal record… american citizenship

bob_'s avatar

Removed by me because the details were changed.

filmfann's avatar

As I recall, Supreme Court members are not even required to be lawyers.

talljasperman's avatar

@filmfann I learn something new every day

filmfann's avatar

@bob_ I was thinking Sonia Sotomayor, but of course she is Puerto Rican, and I have changed the wording on the details portion. Thanks for the correction.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t get why religion or military experience should matter at all – makes no sense, whatsoever. I think at minimum the person should have a law degree and experience within the justice system. The fact that they’re not required to be lawyers now is beyond ridiculous.

filmfann's avatar

According to WikiAnswers: The last sitting Justice without a formal law degree was Stanley Forman Reed, who served from 1938–1957.

filmfann's avatar

@bob_, I’m still giving you lurve for your correction.

janbb's avatar

They should be a man-woman, straight-gay-bi-non-gendered, black-white-hispanic-jew, liberal-conservative, atheist-deist, northern-southern-western-easterner. That way they’d be sure to get confirmed.

filmfann's avatar

@janbb What do you have against the handicapped?

janbb's avatar

Dammit, I knew there was a constituency that I was alienating!

Blackberry's avatar

What Simone said.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Their background should indicate that they realize the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution and does not have the authority to pre-empt Congress by writing law from the bench.

Flair's avatar

An honest judge with a clean record would be great. A judge that was not extreme in either direction would be fantastic. A judge that is old enough to have practical life experience, but not so ancient that s/he falls asleep during proceedings (like certain members of Congress) would be even better.

thriftymaid's avatar

@dpworkin The Supremes aren’t bound by stare decisis, except they may choose to not review issues they themselves have already settled.

thriftymaid's avatar

A good judicial record of supporting opinions based on true constitutionality with little to no personal bias. That’s a tall order.

dpworkin's avatar

I didn’t suggest that they be bound by it, only that they have some respect for it, unlike our current Chief Justice, who might yet reinstate the poll tax and resurrect Plessy V Ferguson.

bobloblaw's avatar

1) Complete Legal Methodology: I would, at the very least, hope that the Supreme Court Justice has a grasp of the 5 basic types of legal arguments: intent, text, tradition, precedent and policy. Everyone here seems to imply that only one of those is ever appropriate in their analysis (e.g. a lot of strict constructionists think that intent/text are the only ones relevant whereas a lot of “living constitution” types think that only “policy” is relevant). A good justice should take all of these into consideration.

2) Good Writing: this serves two important functions. First, lawyers will be able to read and understand what the justice is actually trying to say. This will provide consistency and eliminate ambiguity in the law. Second, people will be able to read and understand what the justice is trying to say. Some of the current justices are better at writing than others. A good writer would make it easier for people (layman included) to actually learn Constitutional Law. It’s my personal belief that every single American, whether they agree with the rulings or not, should at least understand the Court’s arguments. I could do for another Cardozo, in terms of writing style.

dpworkin's avatar

Cardozo is one of my heroes, along with Thurgood Marshall.

Ltryptophan's avatar

How about someone who is the absolute best in the field. How about someone who knows the law better than everyone else alive!

bob_'s avatar

@Ltryptophan That’s subjective.

Ltryptophan's avatar

Let’s have a contest…

thriftymaid's avatar

@dpworkin Yeah, law school reveres those two.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Religion, race and gender are not suitable criteria.

A judge who most closely approximates Judge Steven’s admirable and distinguished qualities. The courts long term shift to the right over the last several decades should not be continued.

Nullo's avatar

Someone to offset Sotomayor would be good.

Ltryptophan's avatar

If I were Obama, I would offer it to someone who is liberal who is going to lose their job soon anyway because everyone wants to get rid of these tax happy bastards.

bobloblaw's avatar

@Nullo What do you mean by “offset Sotomayor”? Ideologically, the court is 4–4-1 w/Kennedy as the swing vote. Kennedy tends to vote on the conservative side of things.

Nullo's avatar

@bobloblaw
I mean someone who is ideologically opposite Sotomayor. Then it would be 5–3-1. I don’t like justices who think that they can make laws.

filmfann's avatar

@Nullo Can you cite examples of Sotomayor creating laws on the Court?
I haven’t seen any, and this just seems like an argument the Party of No made, without evidence.

dpworkin's avatar

@Nullo You mean like the one where Corporations can’t have their spending limited? That kind of brand new law, against all precedent and retrograde to the needs of the American People? You and I finally agree.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@dpworkin Yeah. Stare decisis my ass…

bobloblaw's avatar

@Nullo I hope you understand that it is a rare occasion where a justice (or any judge for that matter) simply “makes up law.” Everything that they’ve decided has had legal precedent. If you look at the actual case law that was leading up to any particular decision, you’ll see that practically all decisions were decades in the making. Case in point: Roe v. Wade. If you look at the case law, you would have seen a string of cases developing. In fact, the justices were a little surprised at the public reaction to their decision. For them, it was a matter of course.

On the other hand, in my short study of the law, I’ve seen about two major decisions that would fall into, what you would probably call, “judicial activism.” First is MGM v. Grokster where the Court simply ignored the last 20 years of case law. Second, as mentioned, I would say the recent Citizens United case. That was also a departure.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@bobloblaw Out of curiosity, what about Kelo v. New London? Did that appropriately follow case law? I remember it being very controversial when it was decided.

bobloblaw's avatar

@Dr_Dredd If I recall correctly, yes, it did follow case law. There was already a set of rules that determined when government could take private property and turn it over for public use (based on the 5th amendment & case law) However, my understanding of the case is that it turned on how the rational basis test was to be applied/conceptualized. One would allow the law to stand, the other would not. Obviously, the former won out.

I would also note that the case only allowed state governments to take private property for public use. It never required it. That means states can opt out of using it (many states have).

Nullo's avatar

@filmfann Ah. It was policy that she was talking about.

In any case, I oppose the notion that the judicial system should effectively be making legislation.

dpworkin's avatar

@Nullo How strongly do you feel that way? Should we impeach Alito, Thomas and the other three Justices who voted in favor of Citizens United?

filmfann's avatar

@dpworkin Sotomayor was on the losing side of that, no?
I don’t believe SC Justices can be impeached, which is too bad. I would love to get rid of Scalia.
Ben Franklin pushed for Impeachment options against a president, because if they didn’t have it, the only option to remove a corrupt politician would be assassination. Why didn’t they do that with the Court?

filmfann's avatar

Also, in the case you cite, they didn’t so much create new law, as remove restrictions.
I could be wrong about this.

bobloblaw's avatar

@filmfann Supreme Court Justices may be impeached following the same rules for other politically elected officials under Articles I and II of the Constitution.

filmfann's avatar

@bobloblaw I stand corrected. Thanks!

Dr_Dredd's avatar

I think Abe Fortas came close to being impeached. (Although I believe he resigned first…)

Nullo's avatar

@dpworkin I am unfamiliar with the details of the case. Perhaps we should.

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