Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Consensus Building Judge

The accusations that Supreme Court Nominee doctored memos from doctors to frame the partial birth abortion debate in ways favorable to Bill Clinton's position are important, and should be investigated in the Supreme Court hearings.

The thing I disliked most about my education was the professoriat was teaching students how to frame arguments to fit leftist ideology instead of teaching us ways to challenge all ideas in the pursuit of truth.

If it is true that Kagan changed wording on an opinion of a group of doctors to support a political opinion then, in my opinion, she disqualified herself for a position on the Supreme Court.

While this process of framing issues for political ends is the style for common discourse, the Supreme Court needs people striving to engage in a higher form of discourse.

I suspect that what we see on the Internet on this topic is largely partisan hot air. So, I wish to use the accusation to lead into a different plaint.

So far, in his two Supreme Court nominations, President Obama led into the nomination by listing attributes that really were not conducive for a Supreme Court nonimation. The Sotomayor nomination praised Sotomayor for her empathy. This is a wonderful attribute for a local judge or lawmaker ... but not for the Supreme Court which is the one court that deals with laws at an abstract level.

For the Kagan nomination, Obama praised the candidate for consensus building. The ability to build consensus is an admirable attribute and useful for many political posts from legislation to administration. However, the attribute is not as valuable to Supreme Court where people are looking for clarity in both the minority and majority opinions of the court.

Having a great consensus on the court could even harm the court as opinions might be written as a compromise or with an eye toward framing a political debate rather than as an attempt to clarify to the legal community a legal opinion.

The stuff coming out of the Supreme Court is supposed to be dry, boring legal analysis and not political copy or campaign material.

Having empathy or being able to build consensus are wonderful things, but they are not attributes that are most important for the job at hand.

Why does Obama praise nominees for attributes that are not central for the job?

A good administration is someone who understands the attributes needed for different positions and appoints people with those attributes to the position. So I am dumbfounded each time I listen to Obama nominations.

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