Kia Franklin

More on an Obama Administration Supreme Court appointee

From the LA Times today: more speculations about an Obama Administration Supreme Court appointee.

"I think Obama would want to make a statement with his Supreme Court justices. We hope for a justice who can replace the lost voice of an Earl Warren or Thurgood Marshall or William Brennan," said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, a coalition of public interest and civil rights groups. "It's critically important to have an Obama justice who can be a counterpoint to [Chief Justice John G.] Roberts and [Justice Samuel A.] Alito."

I have the audacity to hope that's true. But Obama has said himself that he often "serve[s] as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views." So author Dan Savage warns folks not to get too carried away with what they think Obama would do if the time came to appoint a new Justice to the highest court. Savage writes:

...It is not clear that Obama hopes to put the kind of person on the court that Aron and other liberals are dreaming about.

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."

He credited the Warren court with ending segregation and opening doors for African Americans. "The court had to step in and break that logjam. I'm not sure you need that. In fact, I would be troubled if you had that same kind of activism in circumstances today," he said.

What kind of activism does Obama mean? The role of "we the people" is to ensure that there is robust public dialogue about the difference between inappropriate law-making from the bench and a judiciary that is committed to taking necessary measures to protect the legal rights and protections to which we're all entitled. Obama's own statements (for instance his and Biden's civil rights agenda from, or Obama's statements from previous interviews) can help reveal where he stands on that distinction. Savage quotes Obama from a previous interview:

"A Harvard Law School graduate, Obama taught for 12 years at the University of Chicago and led classes on voting rights and equal protection of the law. In the Detroit interview, he praised Justices Breyer and David H. Souter, a Republican appointee, as "very sensible judges. They take a look at the facts and they try to figure out: How does the Constitution apply to these facts? They believe in fidelity to the text of the Constitution, but they also think you have to look at what is going on around you and not just ignore real life.

That's the kind of justice that I'm looking for," he went on. "Somebody who respects the law, doesn't think that they should be making the law, but also has a sense of what's happening in the real world and recognizes that one of the roles of the courts is to protect people who don't have a voice."

He added that the "special role" of the court is to protect "the vulnerable, the minority, the outcast, the person with the unpopular idea."

So the role of the civil justice community is to remind Obama of these past positions and illuminate the rights at stake. Also, it's important to do this keeping in mind his past references to trial lawyers and tort reform.

Also, Check out AFJ's blogpost on Obama nominees.

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 6:08 PM, Nov 17, 2008 in Civil Justice | In the News | Judicial Nominees | Presidential Election | Right to Access the Courts
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