Obama and the judiciary

Recently Justin Jouvenal on Salon had a long thoughtful article about possible picks by incoming President Obama for the U.S. Supreme Court.  This is an important issue given the rightward tilt of recent appointments (Roberts and Alito).  It is evident that balance must be restored to the highest court in the land.   And the list of possibilities that Jouvenal lays out is impressive (and makes this liberal’s heart go pit-a-pat).   http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/11/19/supreme_court/index.html

However, it would be dangerous to overlook the importance of the appellate courts, where the majority of cases are decided since the Supremes only agree to hear a miniscule fraction of the cases that are brought to them.

Many of the possible appointees listed in Jouvenal’s article could well be considered for the Court of Appeals, which the Bush administration has been filling with Federalist Society members for the last eight years.  This would position them for possible appointment to the Supreme Court and would also help tip the balance on these vital courts in a more compassionate, progressive direction.  The right-wing ideologues of the Federalist Society have demonstrated the importance of infiltrating the court system at all levels so that they have a deep bench whenever there is an opportunity to move them up the ladder.

Obama himself has given few hints about his philosophy about judicial appointments.  As a former Constitutional law professor it is likely that he has some strong opinions about who he would like to see appointed to the Appeals and Supreme courts.

Not surprisingly, he opposed George W. Bush’s nomination of Roberts and Alito to the nation’s highest court. Obama has praised former Chief Justice Earl Warren, who was instrumental in ending school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, and current moderate to liberal justices such as Breyer and Souter. Last year, Obama spoke before a Planned Parenthood conference about his judicial philosophy.

“We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom,” Obama said. “The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criterion by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.”

In other words, Obama wants justices with “heart”, not just a cold ideology.  It is to be hoped that this standard will be applied to appointments at all levels of the courts, not just the Supreme Court.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Obama, Obama's judicial appointments, politics, U.S. Supreme Court

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