In announcing his criteria for a replacement for outgoing Supreme Court Justice David Souter, President Barack Obama put an idea on the table that's drawn a lot of attention. In addition to the need for a justice who could demonstrate that he or she is "dedicated to the rule of law." capable of honoring "our constitutional traditions," and showing respect for "the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role," Obama put out an idea that was decidedly "street-level."
"I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes," the president said.
It's an interesting concept -- a judge with the experience to know what sort of impact high-flown legal wranglings have on the lives of ordinary Americans. Of course, since then, the media have latched upon this idea as something either tantalizingly shiny or intimidatingly alien, and they have set themselves to the typical, conventional task of "decoding" what it means. Meanwhile, we've all been given the shortlists of various "experts" to nose over, the names of individuals who were widely suspected of being in line with Obama's leanings well before he was given the opportunity to take office, let alone consider a court appointment.
However, what if we went looking for a jurist whose quality of empathy, and whose demonstrated regard for the lives of ordinary citizens, made him or her the ideal, if unlikely, candidate for the court?
I sort of hate to call this project, "Who are the Supreme Court candidates in your neighborhood?" But that's what we're asking our readership: to get away from the shortlists, unplug ourselves from the lobbying and favor-currying, and try to identify judges, jurists, or legal professionals who would bring a measure of real-world relatability to the Supreme Court, who could make Obama's pledge to find a guy who's walked in an ordinary citizen's shoes a reality. In other words, who's on your shortlist?
We ask this knowing full well that having never been asked for your opinion on this matter, you may not have given it much thought at all. Maybe we won't be able to do better than the experts who've already been advancing names to the press. Still, we'd like to hear from our readership, if not the names of people, then the qualities that are important to you or the legal concerns that impact your life.
If you have an opinion -- or a dissent! -- please share it with us, whether it's a personal nomination, an overlooked area of legal concern, or a specific criteria you'd look for in a Supreme Court nominee. We want to hear from you. Please send us an email, and be as detailed as you like. We'll look at it as an amicus brief!