questionable assumptions

David Limbaugh argues that the Miers brouhaha isn’t elitism. He describes an assumption to support his argument. The quality of this assumption is what one needs to consider when trying to determine the quality of the argument.

Picking a justice isn’t about rewarding individuals or satisfying gender, race or diversity concerns. It’s about protecting our sacred liberties. Since the best way to do that is to find the brightest constitutional scholars with the requisite character and sound judgment, then that is precisely what the president should do. That’s not elitism; it’s essential constitutional stewardship.

The assumption is that a Supreme Court judge needs to be a constitutional scholar with requisite character and sound judgment. Three qualifications. One question is whether or not they are all three necessary in toto or not. Another question is whether they truly reflect what a Supreme Court judge needs to be.

The issue of scholar seems to be one of the most contentious. This is usually taken to mean an academic with a record of publications in the field. It can also mean a person who has emphasized the arcania of constitutional history, formation, and interpretation over the practical application of the law to specific incidences.

What questions the assumption that Limbaugh uses to support his argument is that the US Constitution is simply written and does not need an excess of nuance to understand it. Also, there is much to be said for the experience of applying law to specific cases – work in the trenches – as a means to best understand the implications of its impact and its application.

And this highlights the crux of the real debate. Do we want ivory tower scholars at the top of the judicial appellate chain or do we want people who have direct experience with those who suffer its verdicts?

Comments are closed.