Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Diversity on the Supreme Court

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer and Republican Senator Olympia Snowe sent a joint letter to President Barack Obama asking him to consider nominating a woman to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court (who has announced his retirement). As the Senators put it:

The most important thing is to nominate an exceptionally well-qualified, intelligent person to replace Justice Souter -- and we are convinced that person should be a woman. Women make up more than half of our population, but right now hold only one seat out of nine on the United States Supreme Court. This is out of balance. In order for the Court to be relevant, it needs to be diverse and better reflect America.

I agree with the Senators that the Supreme Court should, if at all possible, reflect the landscape of America. Now obviously this should not come at the expense of having qualified individuals on the Court. When it comes to any job, the most qualified person out of all the applicants should get it. If a man and a woman walk into a job interview, and the man has more experience, more education, etc. he should clearly get the job even if there are hardly any women in the company.

The problem is it’s not always such a clear cut case. Sometimes you have multiple people who are equally qualified. And it’s even harder with something like the Supreme Court. I don’t know the stats on all of the potential nominees, but I am sure that there are numerous extremely qualified intelligent individuals of both genders who could potentially serve on the Court.

I think having two or more females on the Supreme Court would be beneficial to a nation where approximately 50% of the population is female. Having a female perspective on the Court is not only important with “hot button” issues like reproductive rights. But the Court is currently hearing a case to decide if a school was within its legal rights to strip search a 13 year old girl because she was suspected of having ibuprofen on her.

Based on some of the comments by the current judges in the oral arguments for this case, a more balanced female perspective is definitely needed. Take, for example, Justice Stephen Breyer who equates a minor getting strip searched to changing for gym.

Why is this a major thing to say strip down to your underclothes, which children do when they change for gym?

Breyer continues...

In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, OK? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear. Or not my underwear. Whatever. Whatever. I was the one who did it? I don't know. I mean, I don't think it's beyond human experience.

Justice Ruth Ginsberg (the only woman on the Court) seemed to be the only person who had a serious issue with what took place.

What was done in the case … it wasn't just that they were stripped to their underwear! They were asked to shake their bra out, to stretch the top of their pants and shake that out!

The other Justices couldn’t see why this could be potentially very humiliating and damaging to a young girl. (Even though they had an “amicus brief” filed by the National Association of Social Workers and National Association of School Psychologists arguing just that)

It should never have been done unless absolutely necessary. And if it was absolutely necessary (i.e. the safety of other students was in question), a female police officer should’ve been brought in, along with the girl’s parents.

It is very likely that a woman will be appointed as the next Supreme Court Justice, and I think this is a good thing. I think having a balance not just in gender, but in perspective and opinions will be beneficial for everyone. And I think it’s even better that there are so many well qualified women up for the job. Furthermore, I’m glad that the insistence for more women on the Court is coming from both sides of the aisle.


  1. I agree. last I read, there were several women and only one man who were named for consideration, although I think there were some who hadn't been named... not sure. but anyway, definitely agree that only one woman on a panel of nine judges does not give women adequate representation. have you found a website or anything that gives brief descriptions of each candidate?

  2. Not really, I've read a few names that have been thrown around, including several women in this article -

    But I haven't seen anything that simply lists brief descriptions of each person. I don't think anyone really knows everyone who is being considered with the exception of the President and maybe a few people close to him. It's not like he's come out and said "It's going to be one of these 10 people." I'm actually not even sure when it will be announced.

  3. I spoke too soon - I just found something with 6 people who have supposedly been confirmed to be under consideration. There's a brief description of each perosn at the end of the article. You're welcome. :p