« The Strange Logic of Bradley A. Smith | Main | Why Oh Why Doesn't the New Yorker Have Fact-Checkers? »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Abby Vigneron

W/r/t Mitchell. I've heard hims say that he felt that he wanted to be in the Senate to try to get healthcare through. Of course he wasn't succesful, but that would have been a great legacy if he had.


O'Connor is a bit of an exception, isn't she?


worth recalling that SC Justice Taft had a resume that included the earlier job of POTUS. (Tho instead of bringing political savvy to the court, it could be argued that he had brought cloistered abstraction to the WH, with predictable results).

Tad Brennan

Sorry--the Taft post was by me (I try to avoid anonymous posting, but my browser forgot).


"they have some experience of testing their views against the realities of life and others of different opinions."

Is this actually true of politicians who have come up through the conservative movement? Elected in safely R districts, all the way up through a deep red Senate seat? The lack of this testing is one of the consequences of the R-induced parliamentary system.

"they are not exactly of the Mitchell/Babbitt/Cuomo caliber on the other side, to say the least."

Is there anyone of that caliber over there?

Kagro X

I just assumed that there are no more politician-judges for the same reason that there are no more Senator-Presidents.

Since the federal bench became an ideological battleground, the confirmation process has become such a torture that no politician would be willing to enter it, and neither would any survive. The trend, in fact, has been toward the nomination of candidates with little or no track record to examine. The fewer footholds you offer to the critics (previously referred to as "experience and qualifications for the job"), the better.

bobo brooks

I would argue that the pool should be narrower. O'Connorism shows us the dangers of too much political awareness underneath those robes.


I agree with your point that the scope of available nominees should be broadened. There are some potentially great jurists out there that don't even receive consideration.
Bill Bradley, for one.


Similar to an above post, I think judges are more likely to be nominated because they're more likely to be confirmed. In the nomination process, everyone likes to pretend that judges are impartial. So by virtue of the fact that she's a judge, Janice Rogers Brown might be considered more impartial than, say, Chris Cox (to pick another California conservative). And, if they've been confirmed by the Senate already, all the better (see Chertoff, Michael and Gonzalez, Alberto as nonjudicial examples).

Michael Gee

I agree with your comment. It is noteworthy that Sandra Day O'Connor is the only member of the current Court ever to hold elective office, and is also one of the judges whose vote is not utterly predictable by ideology.
My guess is not that pols don't get nominated because they'd face opposition (professional courtesy, after all) but because they're less predictable than the obscure ideologues of the bench. Eisenhower had no idea Earl Warren would become EARL WARREN. Clinton (and his opponents) had every confidence Ginsburg and Breyer would be mousy liberals Ginsberg and Breyer.
Bush will appoint a nasty right-winger who'll be eternally grateful for the undeserved promotion, and intellectual honesty be damned. One sure vote for whatever's good for the extremist wing of the GOP-like Scalia.


RE: O'Connor

I have nothing to back this up, but I have the impression that she's become more predictably conservative in recent cases, and that Kennedy has returned to his early erratic behavior. Again, I don't have the data to back this up yet, but that's been my impression.

It's also been interesting to note the recent medical marijuana and takings clause cases. Kennedy's siding with the government in both vs. his borderline libertarian opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, for example, or Scalia's belief in the primacy of the commerce clause but not the takings clause. For all the press and venom Scalia receives, particularly from the left, I think it would be fair to argue, as some recently have, that Thomas is the more consistently conservative and in many cases radical jurist.

Kagro X

An additional name in the case against the "professional courtesy pass" for politician judges: Abner Mikva.

Urinated State of America

"W/r/t Mitchell. I've heard hims say that he felt that he wanted to be in the Senate to try to get healthcare through. Of course he wasn't succesful, but that would have been a great legacy if he had."

Think bringing peace (or a close approximation to it) to Northern Ireland is a good consolation plan. The man's a hero over there.


Thank goodness we don't have Babbitt, but Cuomo would have been an improvement, and would have kept slots open for politicians and academics.

Scott Lemieux

I thought there were arguments at the time that Mitchell apparently couldn't be appointed because of the emoluments clause?



I just read that Mitchell was more interested in becoming baseball commissioner than Supreme Court justice. Whoops.

Also, I don't think anyone's brought this up, but I wonder what effect SOC's retirement will have on Justice Kennedy and his place on the Court.


"penumbras and emanations" theory of the right to privacy

I'm unsure exactly why this was thinking in political terms. If anything, it was just the opposite -- overly legalistic sounding and open to ridicule though the basic principle (structural theory of rights) is quite logical.

Panatey Rekolin

I like your site! It's great.

The comments to this entry are closed.