Thinking Citizen Blog — Memo to Dan, Ken, Dave, Terry and Any Other Lawyers Out There
Thinking Citizen Blog — Saturday is Justice, Freedom, Law, and Values Day
Today’s Topic: Memo to Dan, Ken, Dave, Terry and Any Other Lawyers Out There
Imagine taking politics out of the equation for the selection of Justice Breyer’s replacement on the Supreme Court. Mirror, mirror in the wall, who is the most professionally qualified candidate of them all? This question seems particularly appropriate given that Breyer was a huge champion of judges checking their ideology at the court’s door. In a recent book, Breyer wrote that “It is a judge’s sworn duty to be impartial, and all of us take that seriously.” Whether or not he is being willfully naive or not, let’s just go with the idea that there may be some criteria for selection that are not partisan. Perhaps “positive citations.” My request for the lawyers on this blog is to address these three questions: a.) what criteria of professional achievement of a nonpartisan nature would you use in making a shortlist? b.) what individuals do those criteria spew out? c.) if you were President, what weight would you give to this professional ranking relative to political considerations? Today, a few notes on the two Black women (Leondra Kruger and Ketanji Jackson Brown) whose names come up most often in speculation about whom Biden will pick. And then a note on Sri Srinivasan, an Indian-American, whom one legal commentator (Ilya Schapiro) proposed as unquestionably the most qualified candidate if you take race out of the equation. Is the latter claim true? I have no idea. Do you? Experts, please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
KETANJI BROWN JACKSON (1970 — ), age 51, circuit judge, US Court of Appeals (DC)
1. Harvard (AB), (JD), an editor of the Harvard Law Review, clerked for Associate Justice Stephen Breyer (1999–2000)
2. Vice Chair, US Sentencing Commission, 2010–2014, her appointment was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate, District Judge, US District Court for the District of Columbia (2013–2020), appointment confirmed by voice vote of the US Senate.
3. Circuit judge, US Court of Appeals,: appointed by President Biden in March 2021, confirmed by US Senate, 53 to 44 in June, 2021.
NB: “Jackson’s appointment to the D.C. Circuit considered to be the second most influential federal court in the United States, behind only the Supreme Court, was viewed as preparation for a potential promotion to the Supreme Court.”
LEONDRA KRUGER (1976 — ) age 45, Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court
1. Harvard (AB), magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Yale (JD) Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Review,
2. Clerked for US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, 2003–2004. Between 2007 and 2013 she served as assistant to the US Solicitor General, then as acting principal deputy solicitor general, “the first Black woman to hold the role. She argued 12 cases before the US Supreme Court, and worked on dozens more” (including several landmark decisions).
3. California Supreme Court: appointed in 2014 by Governor Jerry Brown. “On the court, Kruger has emerged as an incrementalist, stating that she views her role as, at least in part ‘enhancing the predictability and stability of the law’ to improve ‘public confidence and trust in the work of the courts.’ She is sometimes considered one of the swing votes when the court is occasionally divided, and is seen as a moderate on the seven-member court — moderately liberal on civil cases, more conservative on criminal matters.”
NB: “If she replaces Justice Stephen Breyer, she would also continue the tradition of the court’s “Jewish seat.” While Justice Elena Kagan is also Jewish, Breyer sits in a seat historically assigned to a Jew for a large part of the past 100 years. The seat was held by Benjamin Cardozo, Felix Frankfurter, Arthur Goldberg, Abe Fortas, and Breyer, but was also occupied from 1970 to 1994 by the Methodist Harry Blackmun.” Justice Kruger’s later father was Jewish, her mother Black (from Jamaica). Both parents were physicians.
SRI SRINIVASAN (1967 — ) age 54, Chief United States Circuit Court Judge (DC)
1. Born in Chandigarh, India. His parents immigrated to Lawrence, Kansas when Sri was 4 years old. Graduated from Stanford in 1989 and received a joint JD-MBA from Stanford Law School and Business School in 1995.
2. He clerked for Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the US Supreme Court.
3. 2011–2013: Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States (appointed by President Obama). Argued 25 cases before the Supreme Court.
NB: US Senate confirmation of his appointment to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by President Obama occurred in May 2013 by a vote of 93 to 0. “He took the oath on the Hindu holy book Bhagavad Gita and became the first federal appellate judge of South Asian descent.” When Merrick Garland stepped down as Chief Judge in 2020, Srinivasan took his place. “Four of the nine sitting Supreme Court justices have served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.”
For the last four years of posts organized by theme:
Two special attachments below:
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to justice, freedom, the law or basic values. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to justice, freedom, the law, or basic values. Or just some random justice-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart.