Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama on the Supreme Court

The LA Times had a speculative piece this weekend on who President-elect Barack Obama would choose to nominate for the Supreme Court if a vacancy opened up (the article does point out that John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg haven’t indicated they’re retiring in the next four years).

The first part of the article notes that many liberals are clamoring for Obama to choose a liberal lion in the mold of former Justices like Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall, or William Brennan from the Supreme Court’s civil rights heyday. The article then mention those who have already been pushed by various groups as obvious candidates (there is a big push for a woman): Judges Diane Wood, from the U.S. appeals court in Chicago, Sonia Sotomayor, from the U.S. appeals court in New York, and Elena Kagan, who is dean of Harvard Law School.

But the article is quick to note that while liberals might be hungering for a social justice advocate on the Supreme Court, evidence suggests that Obama may go the route of Bill Clinton and choose a more moderate justice if a position were to open up:

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press editorial board in October, he described Warren, Brennan and Marshall as “heroes of mine. . . . But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I think their judicial philosophy is appropriate for today.”

Obama, because he has a heavy background in law already, may do little consulting for a Supreme Court justice appointment, so it’s hard to tell where his sympathies might lie until the situation presents itself. I fear that this is yet another avenue by which liberals may end up finding themselves disappointed.

While Bush took his re-election as a signal to push a conservative agenda on the Supreme Court, there’s evidence that Obama will not take the opportunity to push a liberal agenda on the Supreme Court. The problem, of course, is that the Supreme Court has already tipped so far in the balance of conservatives that appointing more moderates to the Court won’t be doing anyone’s civil liberties much of a favor.

Cross posted at Pushback.

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