Who should replace Justice Souter?

President Barack Obama will get his first chance to appoint a Supreme Court justice this year because of Justice David Souter’s plans to retire. Here is my wish list:

1. Obama should leave no opening to question whether his nominee is qualified for the Supreme Court. The easiest way to accomplish this would be for Obama to elevate one of the many good judges Bill Clinton appointed, who now have a decade or more of experience in the federal court sytem.

2. Among the highly qualified candidates, Obama should pick someone who is not a white male. Normally I detest identity politics, but this is the exception that proves the rule. Only two white women have ever served on the U.S. Supreme Court. Only two black men have ever served on the court. No Latino or Asian men or women have served on the court. It’s not a question of picking someone less qualified. I assume that approximately 200 Americans are qualified for this job, and many people with superb credentials are not white males. Some of them are mentioned here.

3. I don’t want Obama to use this opportunity to prove how bipartisan he is by nominating some middle-of-the-road judge. George Bush’s extreme right-wing nominees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, need to be balanced. I am not saying Obama should pick a radical left-winger, but he should pick someone better than “centrist.”

4. On a related note, I would like to see someone to help move the Supreme Court away from its current pro-corporate bias. Clinton’s appointees were quite corporate-friendly, especially Steven Breyer. Bush’s appointees were extremely hostile to the rights of workers and environmental concers. I want someone who will bring some balance to the court.

5. Mr. desmoinesdem adds that Obama should pick someone with expertise in criminal law. None of the current justices had that background when they were appointed, but the Supreme Court hears many criminal law cases. I would assume that any judge with a decade of experience in the federal court system would be sufficiently familiar with criminal law.

I am confident that Obama will pick someone qualified. I am reasonably confident he will pick someone who is not a white male. I am less optimistic about whether he will pick a liberal. Given the economic team Obama has assembled, I am pessimistic about the chances for him to pick someone with less of a pro-corporate bias.

What do you think?

Todd Beeton spoke for many when he wrote last night,

Dear Justice Souter,

Thank you for waiting.

Thank you.

I’m grateful to Justice John Paul Stevens, but in some ways Souter deserves our thanks more, because for the last eight years he put his own preferences aside for the sake of the public interest.  

After the jump I’ve posted an excerpt Mr. desmoinesdem showed me from Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. It describes how Souter was “shattered” by the majority’s ruling in Bush v. Gore.

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Tom Miller expects to stay in Iowa

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller was an early supporter of Barack Obama, leading to speculation that he may receive a federal appointment in the Obama administration. Miller confirmed this week that he has had “some discussions” with the president-elect’s transition team, but says he is leaning toward staying in Iowa. He specifically mentioned that he is not interested in being named a federal judge or chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.

Cityview’s political gossip columnist, Civic Skinny, recently speculated that Iowa Democratic Party chairman Scott Brennan would have the inside track for the attorney general’s position if Miller left the job he has held for 26 of the past 30 years.

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Obama taps Leach to meet with foreign leaders

According to Time’s Mark Halperin, Barack Obama is sending former Republican Congressman Jim Leach and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (from the Clinton administration) to meet with foreign leaders from G-20 nations in Washington this Friday.

Leach was a leading figure in Republicans for Obama and spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Open Left user tietack thinks Leach may be under consideration for a deputy Secretary of State position.

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