Souter! Souter!

RML — By on April 30, 2009 at 8:48 pm

This blog is founded upon the principal that two political opponents can come to the truth through intelligent (though heated!) conversation.  We founded that idea on an episode of Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing” in which President Bartlett appoints both Evelyn Baker Lang and Christopher Mulready, a fierce liberal and conservative respectively, to the Court.

So, what do we think about the announcement that Justice Souter will step down in June?  Who should Obama appoint to fill his seat?  Will this be the beginning of a slew of retirements from the elderly liberal justices on the Court (because let’s face it, you know several of them were just hanging on until a Democrat was in the White House!)?  Is ideological balance an ideal for the Court, or was Sorkin crazy?  What’s more important: fierce ideological debate on the Court, or uniform ideology that accomplishes your judicial agenda?  Which is more dangerous?

Let the debate begin!

~Lang ‘



  • cmulready

    I say lively debate is good; what is frightening are judges who see themselves not as leaders in a discussion (which is good) but as promoters of an ideology and act from the bench to correct the law according to their own beliefs. Which is why perhaps middle of the road justices are better for the country than outspoken idealogues; we need a clarifying lense that reflects on the laws of the people, rather than a voice which seeks to counter-act or lead the people where it believes we should go.

    I had the privelege of talking with Phil Johnson about this when I was up at Berkeley; I wouldn’t want to put words in his mouth, but it seemed to me that he was of the opinion that the court had taken on a role for which it was not intended, forcing the culture to change as it deemed appropriate, whether the culture was ready for it or not…which is where we got some good things, like civil rights in the time of segregation, and some very bad things such as unrestricted abortion.

    The Legislature is, I believe, the appropriate place for a discourse to take place, and has the best chance of producing an accurate respresentation of the will of the people, while leading us in what is hopefully the right direction. When that course strays to far from the guiding priciples of our government, that is when the Supremes are expected to raise their voices. Before that, we the people are being stepped-over by a court that is excedeing it’s authority.

  • evelynbakerlang

    But, my dear Mulready, don’t justices argue best when they vehemently believe what they believe is true? Wouldn’t the argument be strengthened if the justices believed they should promote ideology from the bench? It seems to me that less than that, and it becomes an intellectual exercise, which may be fun, but doesn’t fuel a debate in the same way.

    My other question would be much more sticky: is it better to soften the ideologues on the bench and risk missing the civil rights movement, or is it better to increase ideologues on the bench and risk seesawing between Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board?