April 30, 2009

David Souter To Retire

Well, I can't say I'm super surprised. The rumors have been flying for days that Justice David Souter would retire and now it's official.

This is probably not a huge issue, actually. Souter has been fairly liberal on most things since President Bush (the Elder) appointed him and he turned sharply left of what anyone (including Bush) expected.

I can recall arguments in college with Democratic friends who fretted that they thought Souter was an "enemy of women." Women's rights groups have had few better advocates on the High Court than Souter. He was a dream come true for them. This was one of my first lessons in turning a critical eye towards political propaganda.

I've no real sense for who Obama will nominate to replace Justice Souter. We can expect someone fairly liberal, of course. There is a lot of talk that the appointment should be a woman. I agree that in this day and age, it's kind of retrograde to see a Supreme Court with only one woman on it. But at the same time, the gender, or race, of the jurist is much less important than their intellectual qualifications to handle the deeply complex and challenging issues of Constitutional law which are the Supreme Court's primary job.


S said...

I can no longer agree that the intellectual qualifications of the next justice is far more important than gender. I'm fed up with being so underrepresented on the Court. We have Scalia who displayed this week that he does not know what any part of the country outside of the east coast is like. We had the patnernalistic nonsense that went into the partial birth abortion ban case. I'm not talking about the outcome of the case; I'm talking about the language used in justifying the decision. And now after listening to the argument on the case of the school strip search, where it was clear that Ginsburg alone had any sense of outrage about what had happened to that girl, I'm ready to say one of the most important qualifications for the next justice is to be something other than a white male.

David Schraub said...

Fortunately, it's not like we'll be forced to choose between "intellectual qualifications" and gender. Diane Wood (my Civ Pro prof!), Sonia Sotomayor, Kim McLane Wardlaw, Leah Ward Sears, and Elena Kagan (to name a few names reportedly on the short list) all manage to be both female and astoundingly bright individuals.

If Obama draws his nominee from a hat filled with people named "Jane", I'll be concerned that gender might have trumped qualifications. But given the names that have been floated, I'm really not worried.

Burt Likko said...

I know about Kagan and Wardlaw. Both are intellectually formidable and give every indication of having the ability to do the work well. It's probably safe to assume that the others are of similar quality. Not that I ever really doubted that Obama would nominate someone not up to the task.

David Schraub said...

Well, I have to plug for Judge Wood, since she's currently my Civil Procedure professor.

B.A. (highest honors) and J.D. (high honors, order of the coif) UT-Austin, practiced for Covington & Burling for three years before starting teaching at Georgetown. Professor (since appointment to the bench: Senior Lecturer) at the University of Chicago from 1981-present. Deputy Assistant Attorney General for International, Appellate, and Legal Policy Matters (Antitrust division), 1993-95. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge, 1995-present.

And generally regarded as all-around brilliant.

S said...

I wholeheartedly agree, David, that we can find an excellent jurist who is female. They are most definitely out there (and how cool it would be for you to have one of your professors on the court). So since there are so many excellent female candidates, I would have a hard time swallowing the nomination of yet another man. Diversity can only improve the court.