There is a ton of political nonsense about whether or not President Obama should be able to nominate a Supreme Court justice or if it should be the job of the next President. That’s not what this blog post is about.
Whether it’s in a few months or next year, eventually there will be a new Judge on the Court and you can bet your last dollar that they will be a lawyer. As an attorney myself you’d be surprised to know that I don’t think that is the best idea.
Nothing in the law of the land requires that a Supreme Court Judge actually be an attorney. I do think it makes sense that most of the Judges are lawyers and understanding case law, legal precedent and how the system works is certainly a good idea. It’s also not rocket science and is something we teach to every first year law student. Certainly it could be grasped by a non lawyer of any reasonable intelligence.
While I’m not suggesting that anyone off the street can/should take this job, I do think that a non-partisan, successful person would be a great choice. Howard Stern jokes that he’ll be appointed Judge if Donald Trump gets elected. He’s not serious, but the reality is that he was a great judge on America’s Got Talent because he had firm opinions that all had an explanation for them.
To me the most important quality in a Judge aside from being impartial is that they are willing to look at both sides of an issue and then make a decision based on reasoning, not emotion. It’s one thing if law is settled such as free speech under the first amendment. But when there are questions like should corporations be able to get out of class action lawsuits via hidden arbitration clause agreements or deciding what limits should be placed on a “well regulated militia”, we need someone who can look at these issues as they apply to our world today and offer common sense rationale.
With Judges we have the advantage of their previous rulings to determine if they are biased in favor of one side or another. With non-lawyers we wouldn’t have that, but we would have the lifetime of their tweets as well as a look at what they’ve done with their professional career to see if they are really impartial or not.
The point is that non-lawyer citizens seem to have no representation whatsoever on the Court and deserve to have their own voice. If that voice ends up being the swing vote it’s even better as results might actually then reflect the will of the people.
Sadly we don’t have nine Judges who are real swing votes. In most cases you know how most of them are going to vote and that their reasoning will just end up fitting their desires. How great would it be to have a Judge who actually judged? If it takes a non-lawyer to do that it’s even better.