Here are the top 3 factors President Obama should consider as he vets candidates for his next Supreme Court nomination:
Age. Pick ’em young. The average age of the 3 Democrat picks on the court is 68. Of the 6 Republican nominated justices on the court, the average age is 65. The Republicans understand this strategy well, given that the average age of the 6 at the time of their confirmations was 51. Chief Justice Roberts was 50 when he began; Justice Thomas was a mere 43.
Gender. At 77, Justice Ruth Bader is the oldest member of the court. She might be next to retire, leaving only 1 woman on the court. Why is this important? Balance. Women represent close to 50% of the population, but currently only 22% of the court. Men are proportionally over-represented.
Ideology. I’m opposed to a one issue litmus test, unlike former President Bush who looked for justices to overturn Roe v Wade. The court should be ideologically balanced. Obama should look for justices who believe in the rights of all people – a justice who will not consistently rule in favor of big business. I’d like to see a justice with an independent streak who is not always so ideologically rigid.
Who then? Diane Wood, a 59 year old federal judge appointed by Bill Clinton, confirmed in 1995 unanimously by the U.S. Senate. An English major at U.T. Austin, Woods graduated with highest honors in three years. Some of the smartest, most fair-minded and principled people I’ve ever known were English majors.
If not Diane Wood, then Elena Kagan, who at 49 is the solicitor general and former dean of Harvard Law school. She’s known to have a brilliant legal mind, and not thought of as an ideologue. Progressives might be disappointed were she to get the nomination.
Personally, I think it would be interesting if Obama chose Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law professor who specializes in contract law and is interested in the economics of middle class families. Of course this attention on the middle class would give Republicans the opportunity to unfairly brand her a socialist with marxist leanings.