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U.S. Supreme Court

Should Souter Replacement Be a Judge?

Posted May 4, 2009 6:36 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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As President Barack Obama mulls possible nominees for the upcoming vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, there's no shortage of advice about the factors he should taken into consideration.

Many have speculated that the president will select a woman to replace Justice David Souter after he retires. However, Obama should also consider another diversity issue on the bench, suggests Sherrilyn Ifill, a law professor at the University of Maryland, in a CNN column today.

"Federal appellate judges, former federal prosecutors and high-powered federal appellate practitioners stand a very good chance of getting nominated. State court judges, full-time law professors, former criminal defense attorneys, even civil practice trial lawyers—not so much," she writes. Yet many of those in the latter group have a great deal of practical litigation knowledge that would benefit the nation's top court.

Thurgood Marshall, who retired from the Supreme Court nearly 20 years ago, was probably the last justice who had personal experience defending a client in a criminal trial, says Ifill. "It's a shame because this means that the deliberations of the court lack the perspective of lawyers who understand the challenges that face lawyers presenting evidence in some of the toughest and most complex criminal and civil trials."

And Ifill's not the only one making such suggestions, reports the New York Daily News:

"I would like to see more people from outside the judicial monastery—somebody who has had some real-life experience," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), in an appearance on ABC's This Week.

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Who Will Replace Justice Souter?"

Above the Law: "ATL Poll: Who Should Replace SCOTUS Justice David Souter?"

CBS News: "Who Will Replace Souter? 10 Known Knowns"

National Law Journal: "Kagan: Just Call Her 'The General'"

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