Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Supreme Court Justice

I have been reading with great interest the stories about the nomination of Elena Kagan to the US Supreme Court.  I have always found the Supreme Court the most interesting of US institutions so such nominations renew my interest and admiration for the court.  The fact that liberals are complaining that she is not as liberal as they would like, especially given some of her writings on the prosecution of terror suspects and the fact that conservatives are complaining that she is too liberal on such questions as gay and lesbian rights, might make her the perfect justice.  The New York Times today editorialized that she lacks the opinion paper trail to determine her judicial mindset and therefore properly judge her credentials.  All this complaining and negative editorializing actually comforts me.  I believe there should be two simple qualifications for a Supreme Court justice.  She must be an intellectual heavyweight and be exceedingly knowledgeable about the law.  It would appear that Elena Kagan meets these qualifications.  Her leanings, her politics, and even her religion and home state are secondary and unimportant.  I have faith in the institution of the Supreme Court.  I believe in the Talmud's machloket l'shem shamayim, arguing for the sake of heaven.  I have faith that nine intelligent and knowledgeable people can listen, weigh arguments and then debate the pros and cons.  Predispositions are meant to be cast aside and each issue openly challenged.  The law lives through the interpretation of the courts and its justices.  Together, through intellectual debate, these justices decide how to interpret the law.  Hearing Ruth Bader Ginsburg speak at the Y (through our new 92Y Live program) about her friendship with Antonin Scalia despite their obvious intellectual disagreements restored this faith in the Supreme Court.  It seems to this casual observer that Elena Kagan may very well be above politics and ideology (even if by her own design).  This is exactly how the institution she might come to serve is supposed to behave.  The Supreme Court is defined not by politics or ideology but by intellectual debate.  May it always be so!

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