Editorial: The next Supreme Court justice an Asian American? Unlikely

It’s time to play “Guess the Next Supreme Court Justice” again.

Last week, Justice John Paul Stevens, known by many as the “most liberal” justice, announced that he will retire from the U.S. Supreme Court this summer. He will be 90 years old on April 20.

Last Monday, White House officials stated that there are about 10 candidates under consideration by President Obama for Stevens’ seat. Naturally, there has been a lot of speculation on who the potential nominees are.

It goes without saying, the president should first look for intelligence and experience in a nominee before even thinking about diversity. But once he fulfills the aforementioned criteria, we think that it is very important for him to think about the person’s culture, race, gender, and heritage.

Naturally, it’s easy for some to point out that the president should pick the best person for the job, without regard to diversity. But we’re sure former President George W. Bush felt that he chose the best nominees, and according to findings from the Brookings Institution, 70 percent of them were white men, most of them with conservative leanings that reflect then-President Bush’s own political preferences. This makes sense, but it also goes to show that the “best person for the job” is a rather subjective measure. Thus far, white men account for 30 percent of Obama’s judicial nominees.

So why is it important to consider diversity in the U.S. Supreme Court? Well, we feel that the highest judicial body of the United States should be represented by persons who reflect the population as a whole.

As Geoffrey R. Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, wrote in the Huffington Post, Blacks comprise 12 percent of the population but historically have made up less than 2 percent of justices. Latinos comprise 12 percent but have only made up 1 percent of justices. Women comprise 51 percent, but they have made up less than 3 percent. Lastly, Asians comprise 4 percent of the population and have never been represented on the Supreme Court.

As Stone points out, diversity is relevant because variation in the values, backgrounds, and experiences of judges can lead to intelligent discourse within the Supreme Court, which ultimately makes it more efficient and thorough in serving the country.

So who could be the first Asian American Supreme Court justice?

Well, that’s the problem. For us, there are no stand-out candidates that seem equipped and experienced enough to take on the job. Goodwin Liu is being groomed to perhaps have a seat one day, but he isn’t ready now. Though there are many Asian American lawyers, and there are droves of Asian students entering law schools each year, it’s still a bit rare for an Asian to reach the upper echelons of our judicial system.

This is why it’s up to us, at the community level, to support and encourage our young lawyers to work hard and blaze new trails. We can do this through mentoring — having more community leaders guide and coach young and ambitious go-getters. Our support for them needs to be loud so that we instill a will to break limits in the next generation. ♦

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  1. […] Northwest Asian Weekly: The next Supreme Court justice an Asian American? Unlikely Editorial – 4/15/2010 […]


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