A Non-Lawyer for the Supreme Court?

President Obama has made himself abundantly clear that non-traditional criteria will guide his searched for his SCOTUS nominee. He’s articulated that his preferred nominee will NOT be impartial, as the definition of a judge necessarily demands.

The president has also intimated that he might look beyond the lower federal and state supreme courts for his pick. While there may be some wisdom in not always choosing justices directly from the federal appellate courts (after all, Rehnquist, CJ was nominated from the Justice Department), there isn’t anything inherently wrong with all of our Supreme Court justices having similar life experiences or coming from the federal appellate courts. Correctly–and impartially–applying the law to a given set of facts doesn’t require any particular type of life experience.

Now, some of Obama’s supporters are now suggesting that he nominate someone who isn’t even a lawyer.

Senator Arlen Specter, newly (officially) aligned with the president’s party, “said that the next Supreme Court justice need not be a judge, or even a lawyer.” Specter went on to say that Obama should nominate a “statesman.” Whatever that means.

What potential for trouble! Judges should be able to correctly decide cases according to the law and the facts, without knowing if the parties are “poor, African-American, gay, disabled, or old.” To do so, it requires knowledge of, well, the law. The Supreme Court isn’t some grand court of equity in which the most sympathetic party wins. It’s the highest court of the most advanced society, with the most complex economy, in history.

Let’s leave the lawyering to the lawyers.


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