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Elizabeth Sherman

Elizabeth Sherman

Assistant professor of American Politics at American University; founder and former director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

A Conservative Rut

President Obama's Supreme Court nominee should have the intellectual fire-power needed to articulate a persuasive liberal case on the economic and social issues likely to come before the court in the coming years. The new justice will need solid grounding in constitutional law and the ability to craft powerful arguments in favor of individual rights including the right to privacy, the right to obtain compensation when harmed from dominant, powerful institutions, including corporations and the government, and the right to protection from the intrusions on civil liberties and human rights of an overly prosecutorial and intrusive state.

Former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor ended up being a solid centrist able to counter the more conservative perspective of Justice Scalia, even though she was appointed by President Reagan and, like Justice Souter, turned out to be surprisingly more amenable to liberal arguments than expected. The current court is dominated by a Chief Justice who has already demonstrated his conservative bona fides including a willingness to support presidential over legislative prerogatives and opposition to local ordinances designed to achieve racial balance.

The president should appoint someone who has the educational and professional training as well as the personal leadership skills necessary to counterbalance the dominance of the Scalia-Roberts-Alito-Thomas wing and persuade centrists like Justice Kennedy of the merits of a more liberal interpretation of the law. Obama may be inclined to select someone like himself: a good listener with a winning personality, respectful of a wide range of views, able to carve a centrist path between ideological extremes, and that's fine. But in this instance, the President must choose someone with the leadership ability, intellectual heft, and personal confidence to pull the court out of its conservative rut where we find it to be overly reflective of the politics and perspective of the Bush-Cheney administration and the Republican right.

By Elizabeth Sherman

 |  May 19, 2009; 1:57 PM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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For such an important issue the question posed could have been worded better to elicit thoughtful responses. Elizabeth Sharman took the bait and displayed quite a personal bias. Kudos to the other two panelists who provided thoughtful responses in spite of the "leading" nature of the question.

Posted by: 15of18 | May 25, 2009 12:54 PM
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The idea that 9 people should be allowed to hold such power over the country is ludicrous-- especially when they are being given such subjective parameters like "empathy and understanding". Thank God for the four conservatives who rightly leave "empathy and understanding" to the legislative and executive branches and most of all to the great people of this great Nation.

Posted by: hz9604 | May 20, 2009 6:50 AM
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I have as much respect for and faith in the supreme court of today as being allowed Led Zeppelin to clarify the notion of God to senior seminarians

Posted by: Kingofkings1 | May 19, 2009 10:43 PM
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