Friday, May 1, 2009

The next Justice

Popping into a White House press briefing, President Barack Obama just confirmed that Justice David Souter is retiring after 19 years on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Souter's resignation letter is here.)
Last night's leak of the news already has opened floodgates of speculation about who will succeed Souter. Will it be:
A woman? Lots of folks think this is a good idea. It sure would end the isolation that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has often lamented -- most recently, as we posted, just a couple weeks ago -- since the departure of her colleague, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. More women, moreover, sure would make the Court's group photo look more like those of most U.S. law school student bodies, many faculties, and lots of law firms.
Someone versed in transnational and international law? IntLawGrrls can't help but like the idea, explored in depth here by our colleague Peter Spiro. If this proves a criterion, a few people whose names already are cropping up on short lists jump to mind: Judge Diane P. Wood (below right) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago (same title once held by Obama), who gave a terrific talk on globalization and law at a 2007 conference cosponsored by the Association of American Law Schools and the American Society of International Law; another speaker at that 2007 ASIL/AALS conference, Harold Hongju Koh, Yale Law Dean and State Department Legal Adviser nominee, about whom IntLawGrrls readers know much from these posts; and Judge William A. Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Circuit, a federal jurisdiction/civil procedure professor at California-Berkeley and a participant in talks on globalization and law, among them Réseau ID, in which several IntLawGrrls and Koh also have taken part.
A Latino/a? Our colleague and California-Davis Law Dean Kevin Johnson has examined this idea in 2 articles, available here and here.
The 1st openly gay nominee? That's the hope of some, according to this article.
Someone with significant military experience? Our colleague Eugene R. Fidell, the President of the National Institute of Military Justice now visiting at Yale Law School, made a persuasive argument for that trait in his presentation on the "Security" panel of the March symposium in honor of Justice John Paul Stevens at California-Davis, available now on webcast and soon in print in the UC Davis Law Review.
Someone whose legal experience comes from the practice rather than from academia or the bench? One name that's already surfaced in this regard is Teresa Wynn Roseborough (left), Chief Litigation Counsel at MetLife, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, former partner at Atlanta's Sutherland Asbill firm, former Stevens clerk, and former Chairman of the Board of the American Constitution Society. Teresa gave a terrific talk on the "Equality" panel at our JPS symposium: drawing on her experience arguing on behalf of Al Gore before the 11th Circuit en banc, she deployed actual chad-cards and actual Florida voting booths to persuade the symposium audience that Justice Stevens and other Supreme Court dissenters in Bush v. Gore (2000) had the better view of the case. (Webcast here.)
All the traits above, and more, no doubt will be weighed as Obama moves toward his ultimate choice. As he does, let's hope he keeps well in mind the overarching criterion Obama himself set at today's press briefing:

'I will seek someone with a sharp and independent mind.'

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