Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I imagine everyone who cares has heard that Justice Souter is retiring. This has lead to many articles talking about Souter's history, and many more articles speculating on which minority highly-qualified woman person Obama will appoint. Neither of those kinds of articles are particularly striking, and they make easy filler for papers desperate for content.

However, it's also led to articles like this one. It's no secret that Obama will pick a liberal to replace Souter. Souter, in general, voted in a liberal fashion, which means replacing Souter will make little or no difference. I guess those topics have been exhausted, though, so now it's time to talk about "influence." Souter was "devoted to deciding one case at a time, sifting through the facts and making incremental adjustments in legal doctrine to take account of them." This is apparently bad. It appears the court needs a justice who "sets agendas, forges consensus and has a long-term vision about how to shape the law." I notice that "reading and understanding the Constitution" is not in that list.

Never mind the Constitution, though, because we must have agendas and law-shaping. We must have an influential justice like Brennan. Now, reading his biography would certainly give the impression he was influential when liberals held a majority on the Court, and less influential when conservatives held a majority. This almost sounds like his influence was simply because he was part of the dominant group for part of his tenure. If he had been able to sway some of the conservatives to his causes while in the minority, then that would be influence. However, simply being a vote in the majority block and then being reduced to a long series of dissents doesn't sound too influential.

Also, we must have eloquence because "'Souter, despite being an intelligent jurist with a wry sense of humor, is as eloquence-challenged as the others, and there are few memorable lines in his opinions.'” So, intelligence is not enough. Memorable lines are a must.

In summation, the Court needs someone who will decide multiple cases at a time, not worry about the facts of the case, set agendas, forge consensus, and shape the law, all while writing eloquent opinions full of memorable lines. I think I know just the person for the job.


At 12:42 PM, May 12, 2009 , Blogger Vernunft said...

"Eloquence-challenged" is a nice autological phrase.


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