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Granholm Among Those Who Support a Court Pick Outside ‘Judicial Monastery’

Posted Apr 26, 2010 8:05 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The growing number of observers supporting a U.S. Supreme Court nominee from outside the “judicial monastery” includes a politician who fills that bill: Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The Harvard Law School grad told CNN's State of the Union that it’s a wise move to consider someone who isn’t a judge, according to the the Associated Press and CNN.

The National Law Journal notes the increasing calls for a nominee who isn’t a judge. “So where, exactly, is the ‘judicial monastery’ that Washington keeps talking about these days?” the story asks. “And why do so many people want President Barack Obama to steer clear of it when picking a replacement for U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens?”

Granholm pointed to herself and former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, now the Homeland Security secretary, as nonjudges who have “applied the laws that Congress enacts, that have seen their impact on people.”

Besides Granholm and Napolitano, others on the rumored short list who have no judicial experience include Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Harvard law dean Martha Minow.

The NLJ story says nine former federal appeals judges are on the current court, despite the fact that prior noted justices such as William H. Rehnquist and Earl Warren had no federal judicial experience. Ronald Reagan was the last president to have nominated a candidate other than a federal appeals judge. Reagan chose a state court judge and former state lawmaker when he nominated Sandra Day O’Connor.

John Marshall Law School professor Timothy O'Neill told the NLJ that more presidents are turning to judges as a way to present their nominees as nonideological. Yet a study by Northwestern University law professor Lee Epstein finds the assertion isn’t necessarily true.

Epstein found that former appeals judges on the Supreme Court are just as likely to vote ideologically and to overturn precedent as justices who didn’t have judicial backgrounds.

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