Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dig up those lists of judges. Obama may get another Supreme Court pick soon

Didn’t we just finish a Supreme Court nomination process?

Now we have some people speculating that we’re going to go through it again.

THE LOS ANGELES Times is doing the political prognosticating from the word that Justice John Paul Stevens has not picked a full load of clerks as evidence that he may be thinking about retirement.

Of course, the fact that he is on the verge of beginning his 10th decade of life on Planet Earth could also be seen as evidence that his seat (for one reason or another) on the nation’s high court could be opening up soon.

Should Stevens decide to retire in the near future, it would ensure that President Barack Obama would get to pick another justice to the Supreme Court of the United States. Having multiple picks on the high court would ensure that Obama would leave his mark on the nation in the same way that presidents Nixon and Reagan got to leave theirs with justices who remain on the job all these years later.

I’m sure that fact is making the Obama bashers of our society ill. They would prefer that the man leave no mark on our society because it goes so counter to their vision of the nation that would still have us stuck in so many ways in the first third of the 20th Century, rather than moving into the early years of the 21st.

BUT THIS UPCOMING confirmation battle, should it occur within the next year or so (which is what the Times of Los Angeles implies will occur), will differ from the one that is only recently complete.

For one thing, it won’t be an ethnic battle. It is highly unlikely that any of the other qualified justices of Latin American ethnicity will be taken seriously, on account of the perception that Latinos got “their” seat on the court with the selection of Sonia Sotomayor.

So this will be a case of all those other attorneys and judges who have serious credentials being able to dig out their resumes and make their pitches for lifetime employment on the nation’s high court.

It makes me wonder if Judge Diane Wood, one of the federal judges who works at the U.S. District Court for Chicago, could get her chance for a Supreme Court seat.

SHE REPORTEDLY WAS one of a few judges who got called to the White House earlier this year to meet with the president when he was looking for the replacement for David Souter.

Could she now be the replacement for Stevens – a Chicago native who was chosen for the high court by Saturday Night Live’s favorite klutzy politico, Gerald R. Ford? Or is it going to be one of the other judicial “goofs” we now see in our fair city somehow rising up to the nation’s high court?

There would be a symmetry of sorts if one Chicagoan on the high court were replaced by another Chicagoan. Even though Wood is a Chicagoan by choice who works here, rather than grew up here, I doubt that native Hawaiian and adult Chicagoan Obama would hold that against her.

The reason I bring this up is that I always had the nagging thought that Obama theoretically would like to have three appointments to the nine-member Supreme Court.

HIS PICKS WOULD be a Latino, a woman and a Chicagoan. I remember joking that if someone could find a Latina from Chicago with legal experience, that would be the ultimate Supreme Court pick for Obama.

On a serious note, Obama technically fulfilled two of those categories with his selection of Sotomayor.

Picking Wood, whom Obama knew personally during his Chicago days (he was a law school professor of sorts at the University of Chicago), would also fulfill two categories and certainly would reinforce the idea that he is looking to balance out the high court from a gender perspective.

And should things work out that Obama did someday get to make a third nomination to the Supreme Court, it would give him great latitude to pick, since he technically would have already fulfilled his minimal goals.

IT COULD BE his chance to pick someone whom he truly wanted to have the seat, particularly if it was to replace one of the five justices who tend to vote in an ideologically conservative manner on cases before the court.

Being able to have a third of the high court of his choosing and create an ideological shift in the court’s composition would make for a significant part of the Obama legacy.

Because that hasn’t happened yet. Replacing Souter and Stevens merely means the portion of the high court that tends to vote in a less ideologically conservative manner on cases before the court has the chance to remain the same.

It could be that Souter and Stevens would have been inclined to try to hold on to their Supreme Court posts for dear life had we been burdened with a “President McCain” for the next four years.

THAT LIKELY IS the reason Obama will get his picks early in his presidency, then would have to rely on the Grim Reaper himself to get those other Supreme Court justices to leave their positions during his administration.

Of course, just envision what would happen if Obama were to somehow, during the course of an eight-year presidency, get four Supreme Court picks. Talk radio would be overloaded with people in our society who would be decrying its downfall while those of us with sense would chuckle.


EDITOR’S NOTE: The nation could soon be enduring yet another partisan political fight (,0,5471894.story) over a Supreme Court judicial nominee.

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