Strong opinions, weakly held

Litmus tests and tea leaves

One interesting aspect of the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court is all of the reading of tea leaves going on to see where she stands with regard to various litmus tests. Right wingers want a pro-life judge who is opposed to gay rights. Liberals want someone who’s as liberal as possible given the circumstances. Since Miers has never been a judge and has a background mainly in corporate law with no experience arguing federal appellate cases, and given that nobody expects her to answer questions about her beliefs in her confirmation hearing, everybody is doing their best to look for clues from her past that tell us what she thinks. William Saletan has a good piece at Slate today explaining how her supporters are getting the word out to the right wing that she’s one of them, and that they don’t need to be afraid. Elsewhere I’m reading about her work at the American Bar Association promoting what seem like liberal ideas, donations to Al Gore, and her sponsorship of a feminist lecture series at her alma mater.

Of course, in theory what really counts is her legal philosophy and not her ideology, but nobody expects things to work out that way. In many ways it seems like this is why simply choosing the most qualified candidate makes the most sense. We can guess at the extent to which John Roberts will bring his ideology to bear on his court decisions, but his credentials to serve as a Supreme Court justice are beyond debate. The ideal nominee is an experienced, respected judge with a solid reputation for rendering fair and impartial decisions. Unfortunately that seems like way too much to hope for.


  1. I found this to be an interesting angle on the new Supreme Court nominee:


  2. “his credentials to serve as a Supreme Court justice are beyond debate”

    Really? My understanding was that he’d had only 2 years as a judge, and prior to that was a corporate lawyer. Is 2 years enough to really form a reputation as “an experienced, respected judge with a solid reputation for rendering fair and impartial decisions.” Especially if you were appointed by the same person who’s now appointing you for SCOTUS, and there were likely hints that would happen at the time of your first appointment?

    I know the spin has been that Roberts is ‘uber-qualified’ but it’s not at all clear to me that we (as in we the people as guided by our lovely media) even have a good vocabulary for talking about what qualifies someone to be on SCOTUS and how those qualifications could be determined.

    (Personally, I don’t think being a judge or even necessarily being a lawyer should be a pre-requisite for SCOTUS…)

  3. In addition to his admittedly limited experience as a federal judge, Roberts argued more cases before the Court than all of the other eight judges did in their careers prior to joining. The guy obviously has a clear understanding of the federal appelate process. He’s not my ideal candidate, obviously, but we have a Republican President and a Republican majority in the Senate. We were going to get a conservative. I hope that Roberts has enough respect for the position that he aspired to throughout his career to be something more than an ideological water carrier like Scalia and Thomas. Time will tell.

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