Kagan Not The People’s Choice

I’m not the biggest Elena Kagan supporter.  I don’t know why the President didn’t nominate a more progressive voice.  He could have.  There were a number of other candidates I’d have preferred over Kagan – Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton, Sydney Thomas, Diane Wood.  And wouldn’t it be interesting, and highly entertaining if he had picked someone like Sean Penn, or Sean P. Diddy Combs?  Could you imagine the confirmation hearings?

My biggest problem is not the elitism argument, though I’d have preferred a man or woman of the people, a public school graduate, someone like a Judge Sydney Thomas of Montana.  There’s more to diversity than gender or skin color.  And I  don’t think the candidate has to have judicial experience to be a good judge.  Just because you’ve been one, doesn’t make you a good one.  And to use the experience argument is flawed because no candidate who has ever been put up had ever served  as a U.S. Supreme Court justice before.

My biggest problem with Kagan is that she may be too moderate, and that’s not what we need on the court at this moment in time.  I’m for balance, but a moderate is never progressive and being in the middle with little influence over the conservative ideologues would led to 6-3 rulings.   And that is a scary proposition.  Chock another one up for corporate America and the gun lobby.

Constantly touting the founding fathers, the zealots on the court are out of touch with twenty-first century America.  I’ve got news for them:  the founders are dead and they put into place a living document, not one forever fixed in time.  The Supreme Court needs to wake up and evolve with society, like the founders intended.  Or could it be that the 4 reactionaries on the court don’t believe in evolution?

SCOTUS Pick Reveals Obama’s Centrist Views

Elena Kagan for SCOTUS.  Not my first choice or even second but I trust she’s been vetted as carefully as possible.  Her academic achievements are solid. She has the Ivy League club membership.  Actually, this is a little off putting to me.  The court needs a little more diversity with respect to academic experiences.  Isn’t there a qualified graduate of say the University of North Carolina or the University of North Texas, preferably someone who played in the One O’ Clock Lab Band?  Come on.  Harvard, Yale, Princeton?  Let’s give the small liberal arts grad a chance!  Nominate a SCOTUS from Bard College, Connecticut College, Swarthmore or Hendrix.  These are the places I’d look first.

Elena Kagan will be an ok addition to the court.  She’s not quite the liberal or progressive I’d hope for to replace Justice Stevens.  A bit of a centrist, I liken Kagan more to Justice Kennedy.  You know, Obama may be moving this court to the center, reflecting his ideological bent.  Like Kagan, the President is not the progressive I had hope he would be.  But better the center than the right, right? And it could be worse.  McCain could have gotten the pick.  And who knows, he might have nominated the governor of Arizona or the former governor of Alaska.

Another SCOTUS Nominee for Obama

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.