Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eags Proposes An Éminence Griz For The SCOTUS

            "Up With Montana"

Up with Montana, boys, down with the foe,
Good ol' Grizzlies out for a victory;
We'll shoot our backs 'round the foeman's line;
Hot time is coming now, oh, brother mine.
Up with Montana, boys, down with the foe,
Good old Grizzlies triumph today;
And the squeal of the pig will float on the air;
From the tummy of the Grizzly Bear.

Well, Eags (Timothy Egan of the NY Fishwrap) is beating the drum for a non-Ivy (actually, Harvard and Yale) justice on the SCOTUS. The chosen one is a Montana man, through and through: Judge Sidney Thomas (9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals). "Up with Montana," not "Boola Boola"? If this is a (fair & balanced) call for regional equality, so be it.

[x NY Fishwrap]
Supreme Club
By Timothy Egan

Tag Cloud of the following article

created at

At last count, there were about 200 law schools in the United States accredited by the American Bar Association, but apparently only two of them — Harvard and Yale — can be a path to serving on the highest court in the land.

It was surprising enough to see that with the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, the Supreme Court will not have a single Protestant among its black-robed elite. But equally jaw-dropping was the fact that without Stevens, every member of the court has attended Harvard or Yale law school.

Well-a Boola, Boo, Boola, and Fair Harvard Holds Sway and all that, but enough with the Ivy Curtain. This club needs some air, or at least a breeze from another campus.

Over the years, the nine people with final say over the laws of the land have come to look more like the rest of America. Groups that were long excluded now point with pride to Jews, blacks, Italian-Americans and a Latina on the court. Gays and Asians are clamoring for a voice.

Perhaps it’s time for one more bit of entitled diversity: a seat reserved for somebody who didn’t go to Harvard or Yale.

Stevens, one of four moderates on the Court, has held that seat. He is not just the last World War II veteran to serve, but as a product Northwestern University Law School, he succeeded a very iconoclastic justice, William O. Douglas, whose law school days were not spent in Cambridge or New Haven. Douglas worked as a waiter, janitor and high school teacher, and decided on a career in law only after spending days in the hot sun of Yakima Valley picking cherries. He went to Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., and then worked his way through law school at Columbia. (O.K., he had a teaching stint at Yale Law School, but everyone makes their youthful mistakes.)

President Obama, Harvard Law, class of ‘91, “wants somebody who has a sense of what real life is like in America,” said Senator Patrick Leahy last week. Real life, hmm? Name somebody outside of the Axis of Ivy, someone who didn’t learn to chant, “That’s all right, that’s O.K., you’re gonna work for us someday,” while losing to a state school in hockey.

I’m not arguing to set aside a seat for mediocrity, as was done when President Nixon nominated a segregationist with a below-average legal mind, G. Harrold Carswell, prompting one senator to say that mediocre people “are entitled to a little representation.”

Nor do I see much merit in the mindless elite-bashing practiced by people who drop their g’s and strut a showy ignorance for the sake of cable television ratings. We should celebrate smart, accomplished people. The kind of elites who do deserve derision are politicians who feign populism while demanding that “the private aircraft must be a Lear 60 or larger,” for travel to their appearances, and a bendable straw at the lectern, as the Sarah Palin contract found in a California dumpster this week stipulated.

But clearly, Harvard and Yale need no extra seats at the high end of American power. The law school at Yale is currently represented by three justices — Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — the latter two nominated by George H.W. Bush, Yale University class of ’48, and George W. Bush, Yale University ’69, Harvard Business School ’75.

Five sitting justices have gone to Harvard Law School — John Roberts, Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (though she transferred to Columbia) and Stephen G. Breyer. Three of them were appointed by presidents who went to Harvard or Yale. That’s an Ivy inside straight, a picture of narrow-minded exclusivity that defies the meritocratic ideals of this big land.

I’m not sure just how much attention the rights of an average citizen get in legal seminars at Harvard and Yale, but judging by the majority voting block on the current court, very little. This court, activist conservative in the extreme, has never met a corporation it has not coddled, nor a prosecution argument that does not have superior merit. In criminal proceedings, the state is nearly always right, and in commercial matters those with the most power continue to prevail.

They’ve done lasting damage to the democracy, most recently with a decision that overturned nearly a century of legal thought and found that corporations are people too. Don’t look for the Norman Rockwell painting representing this newfound right.

There is no guarantee, of course, that picking someone from another law school will change the troubling direction of a corporatist court. But new voices, schooled by professors, from locales where life isn’t always a bubble of fellow geniuses, is the kind of rejuvenation this Ivy alumni association needs.

The current choices, for the most part, are more of the same. Elena Kagan, the solicitor general, is said to be the front-runner. And what did she do in the real world? Until recently, she was dean of Harvard Law. There’s also Merrick B. Garland, the appeals court judge highly regarded by some Republicans who went to — you guessed it — Harvard Law School.

At least one name on the short list, Federal Judge Sidney Thomas, of Billings, MT, looks like an intriguing outsider. He was born in Bozeman, got his law degree at the University of Montana in Missoula and he... oh, forget it. He ought to know better than most: the door to the modern Supreme Court is closed to anyone from the wrong school. Ω

[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan is the author of four other books, in addition to The Worst Hard TimeThe Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest, Lasso the Wind: Away to the New West, Breaking Blue, and The Winemaker's Daughter. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]

Copyright © 2010 The New York Times Company

Get the Google Reader at no cost from Google. Click on this link to go on a tour of the Google Reader. If you read a lot of blogs, load Reader with your regular sites, then check them all on one page. The Reader's share function lets you publicize your favorite posts.

Copyright © 2010 Sapper's (Fair & Balanced) Rants & Raves

No comments:

Post a Comment

☛ STOP!!! Read the following BEFORE posting a Comment!

Include your e-mail address with your comment or your comment will be deleted by default. Your e-mail address will be DELETED before the comment is posted to this blog. Comments to entries in this blog are moderated by the blogger. Violators of this rule can KMA (Kiss My A-Double-Crooked-Letter) as this blogger's late maternal grandmother would say. No e-mail address (to be verified AND then deleted by the blogger) within the comment, no posting. That is the (fair & balanced) rule for comments to this blog.