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Law Profs Urge Non-Judge for Souter Seat

Two former Supreme Court law clerks who are now highly regarded law professors and Supreme Court scholars are urging President Obama to to fill retiring Justice David Souter's seat with someone who will bring to the court a different set of life experiences than those of any of the sitting justices. The president should pick someone who will restore some balance to the court in terms of geography, education, life experience and gender, they say.

Daniel J. Meador, James Monroe professor of law emeritus at the University of Virginia School of Law, was law clerk to Justice Hugo L. Black in 1954 and 1955. Kermit Roosevelt, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, was law clerk to Justice Souter in 1999 and 2000. Both appeared as guests this week on the legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer, which I cohost along with blogger J. Craig Williams.

Seven of the court's nine sitting justices are from the East Coast, six of the nine are graduates of Harvard Law School, and all came to the court from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Meador noted. He urged President Obama to nominate someone who would offset this imbalance.

"What I'd like to see is a nominee that is different in every respect from those -- that is to say, a non-East Coaster, a non-Harvard Law School graduate, and a non-court of appeals judge -- because the court needs different perspectives," Meador said. "There's nobody on the court that has any experience in elective office. Nobody has served in the legislature. And these are perspectives that I think are seriously lacking from their deliberations."

Roosevelt, author of the 2006 book, "The Myth of Judicial Activism: Making Sense of Supreme Court Decisions," agreed that Souter's replacement should be someone who would bring a different perspective to the court's deliberations. "In terms of getting good work product from the court, it is very important to have a diversity of viewpoints, a diversity of experiences," he said. "I would add that it's very important to have a female nominee for the same reason. Women have different life experiences than men; women bring a different perspective to the court."

In the 30 years from 1940 to 1970, Meador observed, appointments to the Supreme Court included four former U.S. senators, three former state governors, five former attorneys general, a former secretary of the treasury, a former secretary of labor, and a former chair of the Securities & Exchange Commission. Since 1970, not one of the justices has that sort of experience. "I view that as a serious lack in the court's deliberations," he said.

You can listen to or download the full, 30-minute interview from the Legal Talk Network.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on May 8, 2009 at 02:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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