I think it’s time for a reality check on this whole matter. Let’s take this from the ground up, starting with the utility of The Law in our society…
The vast majority of lawsuits are petty and emotion-driven, involving issues that would be better resolved by alternative means. The proliferation of litigation stems from the proliferation of attorneys—not at all because it provides a good means of dispute resolution. Even then, most lawsuits are settled by the parties, before a judicial finding or verdict is issued.
For those cases that do receive a verdict, it is almost never just. Rather, a finding is made based on assessing some percentage of blame to either side. If one side is truly innocent, it is unlikely that just compensation will be received, unless you are talking about a high-profile personal injury case. Then, the result is generally way overblown, finally appealed down to a reasonably ridiculous amount.
Criminal matters are usually pleaded out, and far too many repeat offenders get back on the streets soon enough to cause most of the crime. All sorts of PC mechanisms are in place to assure that the only way the crime rate will decrease is for the general population to get older, and out of the prime offending years. In fact, this is happening.
Given the above, one can question the value of The Law, and the undue emphasis that is placed on it.
For some reason, those on the Right would like a conservative federal judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court, but why? An appointment to the federal judiciary is for life, and commands a good salary, although it pales in comparison to what could be garnered in private practice. So why would someone want to be a federal judge? Egotism and laziness would be two good guesses, followed distantly by “wanting to make a difference” (God help us). I have known a few federal judges, and they all received their positions via political connections.
In one case, the man was a fairly good attorney, but was definitely a political activist (on the Left, naturally). In the second case, the man had an alcohol problem, and was extremely lazy and barely competent. In the third case, the man was decent and competent, and seemed to have no agenda other than doling out justice. It should be noted that none of the three burned the midnight oil, or even the after 6:00 PM oil, for that matter.
Of course, a vetting process could look at many prospective candidates from the Federal bench, and come up with a supposed super-candidate like John Roberts. Roberts surely has impressive credentials, if you’re into that sort of thing, but I’m suspicious of someone who has spent his entire life polishing his resume.
While we’re at it, what does it mean to be “qualified,” anyway? No one in California history had better qualifications to be governor than Gray Davis—a war hero with vast political and governmental experience, and a strong work ethic. Yet, few would mention his name in a list of even mediocre governors of the Golden State.
No one would argue that Harry Truman had a better resume than Thomas Dewey (who actually declined an offer to be Chief Justice), yet it was Truman who was elected president in 1948. Furthermore, the way Truman is now remembered bears little resemblance to his actual record. In this, he is hardly alone: Lincoln, widely despised in his lifetime was raised to secular sainthood, while good and decent men, who performed admirably under the circumstances dealt them, such as James K. Polk and Franklin Pierce, are barely remembered at all.
Note that Supreme Court justices are not exempt from this phenomenon, either. Some overrated justices are Louis Brandeis, William O. Douglas, Warren Burger, Thurgood Marshall, and Oliver Wendell Homes. Underrated justices include Byron White, John Marshall Harlan, William Rehnquist, and Morrison Waite.
I would think that the ideal Supreme Court justice should have common sense, lots of experience in the real world, and not much in government, and have great communication skills. A knowledge of constitutional law would be nice, as well.
Finally, we should realize that the Court turns away more cases than it looks at, and when it decides major cases, generally gets them wrong. Worse, precedent means nothing at all. If Lochner v. New York (1905), allowing bakery workers to voluntarily put in more hours than mandated by the state is a landmark decision in laissez-faire capitalism, for what reason other than politics was it overturned in 1937’s West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish? Why do few remember that all this New Deal fervor lowered the employment prospects of those who needed it the most, including Blacks?
Do you want more examples of rotten Court decisions? How about Murray v. Curlett/Abington School Dist. v. Schempp (1963); Miranda v. Arizona (1966); Roe v. Wade (1973); and Kelo et al. v. City of New London (2005)?
Care to argue how Harriet Miers could do any worse than those? Or maybe you would support “qualifications” over actually knowing the person. In that case, please defend the records of Earl Warren, Harry Blackmun, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, John Paul Stevens, and Sandra Day O’Connor.
Maybe W. is onto something.