Friday, July 29, 2005


Which Court Has He Been Looking At?

I've been meaning to respond to this before now. Last week David Adesnik at the rather excellent Oxblog responded to Sandra Day O'Connor's rather dumb statement about John Roberts, "He's good in every way, except he's not a woman," with an equally silly statement of his own: "If there is one institution in this country that should be protected from affirmative action, then the Supreme Court is it."

Oh, come on! If by affirmative action, one means the ideal sense -- thoughts of religion, ethnicity and gender factor into a given choice of a qualified candidate -- then affirmative action has played a role in the Supreme Court for decades.

And not just in the case of Clarence Thomas, which David mentions. George H.W. Bush was a bit more blatant in selecting a black man to replace Thurgood Marshall. But where do phrases such as "
the Jewish seat" come from? Not from the identity politics of the last thirty years or so:

"[Louis] Brandeis' seat [appointed in 1916], called the "Jewish seat," was handed over, in succession, to Felix Frankfurter, Arthur Goldberg and Abe Fortas, before President Nixon broke with tradition by appointing Harry Blackmun in 1969."
Similarly, there was also discussion of a "Catholic seat" going back many years before the 1960s.

Bean-counting on the high court may be somewhat unsavory, but it's hardly anything new.

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