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April 26, 2010

Should sentencing fans be rooting for a non-judge replacement for Justice Stevens?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this effective new piece in The National Law Journalby Tony Mauro, which is headlined "Pressure Grows to Pick a Nonjudge for the High Court: All nine justices on the current U.S. Supreme Court hail from the federal appellate bench."  Here is how the piece starts:

So where, exactly, is the "judicial monastery" that Washington keeps talking about these days? And why do so many people want President Barack Obama to steer clear of it when picking a replacement for U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens?

More than any other time in recent memory, the drumbeat of politicians and pundits alike against naming another federal appeals court judge to the Supreme Court is running high.

With nine former federal appellate judges on the current Court, some are saying: Enough already. Even if Obama ultimately puts a federal judge on the Court — as all his predecessors have done since Ronald Reagan named state judge and former legislator Sandra Day O'Connor in 1981 — the push for more background diversity on the Supreme Court is likely to intensify in advance of the next vacancy.

Invoking the likes of O'Connor, Earl Warren and William Rehnquist — all noted justices who joined the Court with no federal judicial experience — politicians, academics and others say the current Court needs to be leavened with justices who bring different experiences to the bench.

Because I am a fan of all flavors of background diversity, I think I am rooting for President Obama to appoint a non-judge to replace Justice Stevens. But I think it is reasonable to worry that a non-judge (especially one without any prior criminal justice experience) might not be able to effectively engage with other Justices on important sentencing issues.

April 26, 2010 at 09:08 AM | Permalink


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Well, first of all "non-judge" in this case is just code talk for one particular person. AFAIK there is only ONE non-judge that is even being considered. So to talk about appointing a "non-judge" in this situation is disingenuous. Where were these people when Sotomayor was being appointed? I no longer refer to this person by her name or title because in DC it is now "She who must not be named," which if you think about it is all one really needs to know about why in fact she should indeed not be named to the Supreme Court.

The second point is that SC Judges appointment is for life. I think it's mistake to assume that whoever and whatever experience a person has going into the game will be the same person coming out. On the job training is possible and should be encouraged. The strangest thing about the nomination process is that we are to assume that a person's life experiences will shape their fitness for the bench....then all of a sudden this experience becomes fast frozen and never changing. Huh?

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 26, 2010 11:02:28 AM

I'm hoping for Leah Ward Sears, I think she'd be great.

Posted by: JC | Apr 26, 2010 2:42:03 PM

I agree. A non-judge would have plenty of problems keeping up with the other Supreme Court Justices.

Posted by: N/A | Apr 26, 2010 5:45:20 PM

I would like to see a normal human being appointed, someone who has not been made a mental cripple by the criminal cult enterprise. Ban all lawyers from all benches, all legislative seats, and all responsible policy positions in the executive branch. This ban is justified by the criminal, treasonous nature and structure of the lawyer profession.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 26, 2010 9:39:17 PM

supremacy, greetings! You never have answered the question of how much your ex socked you for at the divorce. Just because her lawyer was so very much better than yours is no reason to hate the whole legal profession.

Posted by: anon 13 | Apr 26, 2010 11:28:44 PM

Anon 13: Some misunderstanding here.

I love the lawyer profession. There is no greater love than a love great enough to correct. Why would I expend so much time, suffering, and hard sweaty labor, totally unappreciated by the cult indoctrination victims here, but to help it, if not for the greatest love possible?

Once corrected, the lawyer profession will be half its current size. Its income will be 4 times greater because of the much greater value it brings with the rule of law (in profit, no longer in rent). Its public esteem will be 10 times greater.

In 100 years, a statue of the Supremacy in a heroic pose will be the first sight seen by anyone entering the headquarters of the ABA. "Savior" will be the sole inscription in shined black granite for the ages.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 26, 2010 11:43:40 PM

A non judge is necessary, but a non judge with political experience. I am on the side of Napolitano.
Evan Bayh was mentioned before. But not vetted. Hillary would be my second choice after Napolitano.

Obama was elected as a progressive. If you are gonna be a bear, be a grizzly. Please do not send up some nominee with Yale/Harvzrd/DC Ct of Appeals/I will appeal to the logic of the other judges etc credentials. Give me an Earl Warren, Hugo Black, William Douglas, Brennan, Holmes (had civil war experience)but please no more weenies.

Posted by: mpb | Apr 28, 2010 1:14:22 AM

Justice Stevens experienced the criminal justice system as few if any previous justices could have. His father was convicted and later exonerated of embezzlement charges.

That sort of understanding and, yes, empathy, would provide an important viewpoint on the court...certainly as valuable as ignorance of the law.

Hillary knows what it's like to be set upon by powerful, unrelenting jackals (Ken Starr and others). And she's a lawyer...with extensive political experience. Maybe she's the one.

Posted by: John K | Apr 28, 2010 2:57:36 AM

Here is a Justice who did not go to law school. He did OK.


Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Apr 28, 2010 3:28:31 AM

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