This post was originally posted at FRS FreeStates on Blogger
Justice David Souter was considered by then President George H.W. Bush to be the next conservative Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Ha! He was the best mistake that President Bush could have made, in my opinion as a liberal, because he was the opposite of what President Bush had in mind when he appointed him to the bench. President Bush still gets flack from right-wingers today about the Souter nomination, about everything from civil rights, labor rights, environmental protection, to choice, civil liberties, keeping our streets safe, to protecting speech, to keeping America a republic rather then a theocracy, or to defending the U.S. Constitution. Justice Souter was there defending the values that some Americans take for granted.
So how should President Obama fill the seat that Justice Souter will leave behind. For one, he should find someone who has values similar to those of Justice Souter, believing in the U.S. Constitution and America and defending it every day and every minute he/she is on the Supreme Court. I realize that African-Americans have had two appointments, Jewish-Americans have had two appointments, Italian-Americans have had two appointments, women have had two appointments, and now that Latino Americans represent 12.5% of the American population, you can make the case that their time has come as well. But it would be an insult to Latino Americans as well as America as a whole to nominate someone to the Supreme Court who is not qualified regardless of their racial or ethnic background. The idea is to nominate the best person for the job and someone who represents your values the best. Then, if that person is Latino, great, but that should not be the primary standard for nomination.
So what am I getting at? Well, a couple of things. I'm not a lawyer (in case you missed the memo), but the job of any Justice is to interpret laws, not write them, and not to legislate from the bench. Legislating is the job of elected legislators (or lobbyists). Justices are supposed to judge the constitutionality of laws and what they mean, not how they should have been written. Democrats control the White House and Senate, so they get to decide who is appointed to the bench and who gets confirmed. Liberals believe, and I'm one of them, that it's time for an appointment that we like, not a centrist, especially since President W. Bush got exactly who he wanted on the Supreme Court in John Roberts and Samuel Alito. But I want a real liberal, not a social democrat but someone who understands the real world and the U.S. Constitution and doesn't try to make it up as he goes along.
I'm not a huge fan of Judge Sonia Sotomayor and probably would not have appointed her, but judging from her professional background, she appears to have liberal tendencies, which is what you want if you are a Democrat appointing someone to the Supreme Court, but she also has a reputation as a tough prosecutor, which tells me she's not too far to the left. Her ruling in the Connecticut firefighters case, and especially her short ruling to explain her decision, is troubling to me as a liberal who believes in equal rights for all, not just for some. But I'm not going to use one case to bring her down, especially when her legal record looks very good on the whole, which is why I believe she should and will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.