May It Please The Court

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May It Please The Court
by Leonard Rivkin
Barnes & Noble CLE Books

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Quote of the Day - Traditions are group efforts to keep the unexpected from happening. - Barbara Tober
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Everyday Lawyers Have The (Unlikely) Chance of Nomination To The Supreme Court

President Bush says that he's willing to nominate someone without judicial experience as a replacement for SDOC. I guess that leaves me out; I sometimes sit as a temporary judge.


Along with the other (estimated) more than a million lawyers in the United States, President Bush is likely to pass me by. It seems kind of odd, doesn't it, that traditionally most Supreme Court Justices were not judges beforehand.

What does that tell you about the law? Does it take a judge to know one?

It seems that being a judge is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to making a decision that will become "the final decision." But isn't that what everyday judges do? Sure, the judge in Superior Court down the street from my office makes decisions that become final every day. More than the Supreme Court could ever hope to make.

No one else, though, relies on that decision to decide another case. In a couple of words, the decision by the "street judge" has no precedential value. On the other hand, appellate courts and the Supreme Court publish their decisions, and they are relied on as precedent. Most appellate judges (the old saw in the Ninth Circuit is that there's not justice there, only judges) and justices are appointed only if they've been judges before.

Why, then, would it be different for the Supreme Court? Maybe it makes it easier to get confirmed since lawyers have few, if any, published rulings that the Senators can call into question. Maybe it's because practical experience is viewed as more valuable than judicial experience when it comes down to establishing long-lasting policy.

It's perhaps as simple as that: long-lasting policy. Who better to make those decisions than someone with a broad range of experience in the law rather than someone whose job it has been to decide cases in a confined courtroom?

My hat's still in the ring, but I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, July 14, 2005 at 14:29 Comments (0)


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