Diversity on the Supreme Court

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Philip Greenspun recommends real diversity on the Supreme Court:

The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court has sparked a debate over diversity on the Supreme Court.

Let’s look at Sotomayor’s life story: went to college, went to law school, became a government employee drawing a paycheck. This is remarkably similar to the life story of other senior government officials as well as politicians. No part of her story includes “was at risk of losing capital due to a change in government regulation” or “was at risk of losing job due to downturn in economy.”

Given that a large number of Supreme Court cases involve business disputes, important diversity on the court would be attained by adding a Justice with some experience in business. A lawyer, regardless of race or sex, who had started a dry cleaners and navigated the regulations associated with hiring a couple of employees would have a radically different experience to draw upon than the current Justices.

Consider George McGovern, one of the towering figures of 20th Century American liberalism. After a life in politics, he purchased a hotel. In a 1992 article, “A politician’s dream — a businessman’s nightmare”, he wrote “I also wish that during the years I was in public office I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. senator and a more understanding presidential contender.”

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