What is with the notion of “diversity” on the Supreme Court?
From President Bush to Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; to outspoken Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both R-Maine, to media commentators in certain quarters, the president’s choice of Harriet Miers to join the Supreme Court was praised as a movement toward “diversity.” Ostensibly, this diversity is because she is both a woman and comes from private practice; i.e., it’s a twofer _ she’s from an “oppressed” group and she has no judicial experience.
So, the inference goes, she’s sort of an “average Joe” _ or even better an “average Joanne” _ and isn’t that a great thing to have on the high court?
Here’s what Snowe said in a statement: “I commend the president for embracing the spirit of diversity by nominating a woman to replace Justice O’Connor …” Snowe continued that Miers will surely bring to the Supreme Court “a balanced approach to cases.”
Huh? What’s so great about a “balanced approach” when one often has to make “right or wrong” decisions? Does it mean one doesn’t have views, or understanding of the law, has trouble making up her mind _ or worse _ doesn’t want to?
Collins said she understands Miers has “a remarkable work ethic and was very well-respected as an attorney when she was in private practice.” She continued, “I am intrigued by the idea of having someone with significant experience in private practice as well as government join the court because such a person can bring a fresh and practical perspective to the court’s decision-making process.”
What? A remarkable work ethic? A fresh perspective? Is that the praise Collins is willing to be reduced to here just so she can get another woman on the high court?
Conservatives, of course, have almost universally panned the president’s choice of Miers and rightly so. Maybe this gal does have a great legal mind _ but who’s to know? After years of working to elect Republican presidents, didn’t these folks deserve someone they knew would be committed to the constitutional principles of the rule of law?
Here’s the question: Should we want a “woman’s” perspective on the Supreme Court, whatever that is? Should we want an “everywoman’s” perspective even more?
Answer _ “no.”
The whole point of the law is that it’s not supposed to be subjective. That’s what is supposed to make it “just.” It’s not supposed to be about emotionalism or personal opinion. It’s not supposed to mean “different things to different people.” That’s what the rule of law is _ the rule of the law, not our own opinion about it.
This is what conservatives have been fighting for for decades.
Now the president presents us with the notion that a woman does, or more actually should, bring a diverse perspective to the law. As a woman, I’m offended.
Even more so, I don’t want an “everywoman,” or “everyman” for that matter. That’s what the federal and state legislatures are for. They are supposed to represent us average Joes and Joannes.
The Supreme Court isn’t an elected body precisely for the reason that it’s not supposed to look like the rest of us, a la Snowe and Collins _ it’s supposed to have appointed to it, chosen for it, the most outstanding and incisive and excellent legal minds available.
What is our society’s fascination with mediocrity?
I wanted another scintillating legal mind appointed to the court like Antonin Scalia. A girl Antonin Scalia would have been just fine with me. In fact, if the president was committed to picking a woman in order to have “gender” diversity (sigh) there were at least many women, who also happen to have great legal minds and judicial experience, to choose from. I would much prefer that he simply cast a very wide legal net for demonstrably great legal thinkers _ a net that by definition would have drawn in many women.
Maybe Miers will surprise us all. But in the meantime, for the president to deliberately choose a woman for the sake of choosing a woman, one with no judicial pedigree or outstanding credentials (other than that she’s a friend of the president), to actually have the fact that she’s not an outstanding jurist be a point in her favor in the public square _ isn’t a “step forward” for anyone.
(Betsy Hart is the author of “It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids _ and What to Do About It.” She can be reached at www.betsyhart.net.)