Diversity on the Supreme Court
Stuart Taylor, Jr. has an article in the latest issue of The Atlantic where he tries to prove that today's justices have a "tenuous grasp of how the real world works" by asking these questions:
- How many justices have ever held elected office?
- How many have previously served at the highest levels of the executive branch of government?
- How many have argued big-time commercial lawsuits within the past thirty-five years?
- How many have ever been either criminal defense lawyers or trial prosecutors?
- How many have presided over even a single criminal or civil trial?
For almost all of these questions, the answer is zero. David Souter was a prosecutor and trial judge earlier in his career, but the rest of the Court has no such experience.
Taylor does a good job of showing how the lack of that kind of experience in the legal trenches clearly affects the Court's assumptions and rulings. But, his article really made me think of something else completely and that's the whole concept of "diversity".
Many people were certain that President Bush would choose a woman to replace Sandra Day O'Connor because, somehow, her seat on the bench had become the "woman's seat", much like Clarence Thomas occupies the "black seat".
That's how too many people think about diversity these days. Diversity is nothing more than a gender and racial quota system: out of nine people on the Court, 5 should be women, you need a black person, an Hispanic person, a Jew, a Catholic and maybe even an Asian and then some whiteys. Then you're all set. Then the Court will "look like America". Except that even then, chances are that all of these people went to one of four law schools (counting John Roberts, six justices on the current Court graduated from Harvard Law School and one each from Northwestern, Yale & Stanford), clerked at the Supreme Court and they were all on the Court of Appeals before their appointment. Yep, that's diversity, and the Court isn't the only place people think like this.
Instead of worrying about about nothing more than race and gender, maybe we, as a society, should be more concerned about encouraging diversity of experience in our organizations. Would someone (male or female, black, white or Hispanic or Asian it doesn't matter) with a strong background in litigation or criminal law be more of an asset to SCOTUS than just any 'ole woman or minority or ideologue? Probably. Will those kind of people get on the Court? Probably not.
Posted by at July 31, 2005 09:54 AM
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|# July 31st, 2005 2:32 PM random10|
If you assume the world is infinitely complex, then any finite subset of individuals, (for example: N=9 or 50 or 100 or 435) captures only a small portion of the experience of the world. Because the subset size is fixed the only way to increase the diversity of experience is to rotate the individuals that comprise the subset. In other words, any fixed group of people possess a limited experience, therefore, the only way to broaden the diversity of experience lies in changing the composition over time.
The genius of the American Revolution was the idea that individuals have inherent natural rights and just government requires the free transfer of power from the populace to the governing. Aware that power is both enticing and addictive, the Founding Fathers designed a system to distribute power between institutions. I, among others, have come to believe that institutional separation of power needs to be supplemented with temporal limitations on power, precisely to insure that government leadership is not stagnant, but rather a dynamic reflection of the people’s will.
|# July 31st, 2005 2:53 PM james|
|sure, random 10, ideally you could have that turnover. but politics doenst work like that - temporal limits lead to more turnover, which leads to more politicking.
if youre advocating SC term limits, youre opening the door for the 2 other branches to start campaigning on how they want the judiciary to look. every election will be "elect me and we'll overturn/uphold roe v. wade." not only does that blur the separation that you speak of, but it turns the SC into a poltiical, not an impartial, post. i think we can agree that no one wants that.