Monday, May 10, 2010

Starting to bother me:

"President Obama today announced his nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, calling her "one of the nation's foremost legal minds." Kagan would be the fourth woman to sit on the Supreme Court if she is confirmed and the third woman to join the current Court. Mr. Obama called Kagan -- who is the nation's first female solicitor general and the first woman who served as dean of Harvard Law School -- a "trailblazing leader.""

It is REALLY starting to bother me that Obama keeps citing as Elena Kagan's qualifications for Supreme Court Justice that she's a woman.  GENDER is not something that makes you qualified (any more than it makes you unqualified) for something.

It does not reflect on her talent, ability, or fitness for the position that she is the first female solicitor general or the first female dean of Harvard Law School. Rather, it reflects the tenor of our society's ideals right now. In fact, there is a very strong chance that her appointment to both of those positions had more to do with an organization seeking social approval or funding than her ability compared to other candidates, unless ALL the candidates were female, in which case being the first woman would, again, be irrelevant.

If she is going to be on the Supreme Court for the next 50 years, I want to know what she has done for real. Not that she's female. Who CARES if she's female. It should have NOTHING to do with it. Really.

What does have something to do with it is that she's never been a judge before. To me, this is the equivalent of saying, "This person is a fantastic author. Therefore they should become the next editor in chief."  Or "This is the best math teacher in the school. Let's make them the next principal." Or "Here's the best washer salesman on the floor. Let's make them the CFO of Sears."

Experience in a related field doesn't qualify you for a job. Experience in that job does.   Great lawyers do not necessarily make great judges. The skills they have to employ are different.

I sincerely hope (and, unfortunately doubt) that Congress has more mental capacity and more common sense than the President. One step after another, and he's proven he's not only incompetent, he's dangerously so.  

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I can understand your concerns about gender, etc. However, the phenomenon of all justices on the Supreme Court being former judges is a relatively recent one. As was pointed out on the radio this morning, the court that decided 'Brown v. Board of Education' included a former senator, solicitor general, and a governor (Chief Justice Earl Warren, who--love him or hate him--had a significant and often respected impact on US law).

Thurgood Marshall was a highly respected justice, appointed (almost certainly) in part because of his race. He had never served as a judge, but still made significant contributions as a Supreme Court justice.

Ask Yahoo did the counting for me, but apparently 41 justices had no previous experience as judges before joining the Supreme Court ( That's 41 out of 111 justices who have served, or 37%.

The advantage of a judge-nominee is that we have a lot of decisions and can know their skills and opinions. We don't have that for the current nominee, but the fact that she has served as solicitor general--a position with significant legal responsibility--says something for her knowledge.

I don't know much about her, and I'm neither equipped nor inclined to defend her, but I don't see her lack of experience as a judge as a problem, necessarily. True, she needs to make legal decisions, but legal knowledge can come in many ways.