Sago Boulevard

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Ethnicity, Gender, and Supreme Court Nominations

There's a clear value to a diversified Supreme Court (and any major public institution for that matter). Truth be told, I like the fact that two Jews sit on the Court. It serves as a public demonstration of the Jewish contribution to American government. I feel no shame in being proud of that and there's no reason to believe that anybody should feel differently about seeing own of their own (be it by gender, race, or religion) appointed to such a prestigious office.

But it's a dangerous precedent. As I mentioned in a comment to Lauren's post, really good candidates - the kind of jurists who, by the sheer strength of their pen, will move American jurisprudence in the direction it needs to go - will fall through the cracks because they don’t fit the gender, race, or religion requirements. On this point, the politics surrounding Bush's next nominee don't look promising. Washington Post reports:
With Bush poised to make another nomination as soon as this week, he is hearing growing demands to name a woman or minority to the vacancy created by the pending retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Republican political and legal strategists said.

Laura Bush twice has said that she would like to see a woman succeed O'Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court. A number of Latino group officials have publicly urged the president to name the first Hispanic to the high court.

Choosing a justice by any criteria other than judicial ideology and sharpness of mind will hurt the Court in the long run. We needs the country's best jurists not our most congenial ones to shape the law. It's important to remember that when Justice Brandeis is cited, it isn't as the first Jewish Justice, but as a phenomenal jurist. I suppose that when Justice O'Connor is cited by the Court 50 years from now, it'll be her ideology that matters, not her gender.