Saturday, November 19, 2005

GWB and the Supremes

There's a lot of ground to cover here, so here goes:

First, Sandra Day O'Conner's retirement pending confirmation of her replacement. Justice O'Conner will not be missed by me. Not because she was considered a moderate or a swing vote. My criticism of Justice O'Conner is mainly that she had a tendency to sometimes make rulings based more on policy preferences than on underlying constitutional and statute law. This rarely leads to clearing up an issue, and rather tends to muddy the water and prolong the issue. The affirmative action votes she made in Michigan cases a couple of years ago are an example of this. She somehow reasoned that it was fine to use race as a determining factor for the law school but not for undergrads. Or maybe it was vice versa. Either way, it was logically inconsistent and typical of her "split the difference" jurisprudence on way too many occassions.

As for Chief Justice Rehnquist, may he rest in peace. He gets praise from me for trying to put some teeth back into the Commerce Clause. I think history will judge him as a fine justice, while not particularly influential as a Chief Justice.

Now on to the nominees.

From what I've read and seen of John Roberts, he is a fine selection and will prove to be a fine Chief Justice. He has a top-notch legal mind and a humble judicial temperament. Way to go, GWB. Shame on you Senators that voted against this obviously well qualified jurist.

Harriette Miers. Harriette Miers? What were you thinking, GWB? When she was announced as the nominee for the O'Conner seat, I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I'd never seen her mentioned on any insider's listing of potential nominees, so I took a wait and see position. I waited and what I saw was not impressive. I think she did the right thing by withdrawing herself for the seat.

To explain this nomination, I tend to agree with those who say GWB was trying to (a) avoid a nomination fight in the Senate, (b) reward a long-time friend, servant, and supporter with a plumb appointment to the Court, and (c) appoint a Bush loyalist to the Court. None of these reasons are particularly good reasons to appoint Miers, but they don't disqualify her either. Rather, it became clear as her hearings date approached that she was not up to the job. End of story.

Now for Judge Alito. Alito is another fine jurist in the Roberts mold. Sharp legal mind with a restrained judicial temperament. I've read several stories on the web either penned by liberals or feature quotes from liberals that know him, worked for him, etc. and they have nothing but high praise for the man. He will be confirmed in early 2006 with about the same margin of approval as Roberts recently received.

In summary, President Bush has nominated two fine, eminently qualified jurists, with the Miers stumble in between.

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