« "The Comparative Nature of Punishment" | Main | Two important (and very timely) Eighth Amendment pieces on SSRN »

September 15, 2008

Wondering what a Justice Palin might say about sentencing jurisprudence?

In this post a few weeks ago, I thought out-loud about the (real?) possibility of a President Obama nominating Senator Clinton to fill an opening on the Supreme Court.  Now, thanks to this Newsweek article from Dahlia Lithwick titled "Put Palin on the Supreme Court: Washington's old-boy problem hardly ends at the Oval Office," I cannot help but wonder what a Justice Palin might think about Apprendi, Blakely and Booker.  While I doubt we can expect to see both a Justice Clinton and a Justice Palin on the Supreme Court anytime soon, here is one snippet from Dahlia's piece that has me rooting for such a Court:

[W]hile our contempt for the Washington life touches everyone in the legislative and executive branches, it's become almost a job requirement at the Supreme Court.  This third branch of government is wildly overrepresented by insider lawyers with identical résumés.  You can swap out one Ivy League law school for another, but beyond that, the bench is ever more populated by folks like Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito — brilliant men whose chief job experience consisted of work for the executive branch followed by a stint on the federal bench.  It's not that these are bad qualities in a jurist. It's just that a court that once included governors and senators and former football stars is now overrun by an elite cadre of mostly male, mostly East Coast lawyers. If ever there were a branch of government crying out for varying life experiences, it's the Supreme Court.  And if any branch of government is in need of a mother of five who likes shooting wolves from helicopters, the court is it.

Though most of Dahlia's piece is a tongue-in-cheek (and perhaps unfair) slam on Governor Palin, the portion above justifiably notes extreme lack of true diversity on the Supreme Court.  Indeed, it is for this reason that I have urged in many prior posts a different perspective on possible SCOTUS nominees (and it is why I was one (and the only one?) who actually applauded President Bush's unexpected decision to nominate Harriet Miers to the Court).

Some related posts:

Postscript:  Anyone who might respond to this post by noting that Governor Palin is not a lawyer should be sure to check out the this article by Professor Adrian Vermeule, who argues that the Surpeme Court should have at least one "lay Justice" -- i.e., he contends that "an historian, economist, doctor, accountant, soldier or some other nonlawyer professional should be appointed to the Court."

September 15, 2008 at 11:43 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Wondering what a Justice Palin might say about sentencing jurisprudence?:


All of these appeals for "diversified
life experiences" for a SCOTUS justice
are nothing more than love notes for
Warren-era activism. There is a place
for a "lay justice" -- it's called the

What SCOTUS could really use, however,
is a trial lawyer or two. Most of these
academics have never spoken to a
client in their entire careers, let alone
examine a witness, pick a jury, etc.

Posted by: Large County Prosecutor | Sep 15, 2008 2:21:59 PM

I just watched a video of Matt Damon talking about how he doesnt know anything about Palin well buddy just get on the internet and look something up pal she knows what shes doing

Posted by: Law iz Law | Sep 15, 2008 3:05:05 PM

She can see Russia from her house!

Posted by: babalu | Sep 15, 2008 10:52:18 PM

Which academic never spoke to a client?

Posted by: S.cotus | Sep 16, 2008 10:24:54 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB