Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Leah Ward Sears Joins SCOTUS Short List

Along with Diane Wood, Elena Kagan and Merrick Garland (as well as the less likely mentions of Janet Napolitano and Hillary Clinton), it seems that Leah Ward Sears has made Obama's short-list of replacements for Justice Stevens' seat.

While too early to narrow excessive focus on any one candidate, Sears would earn Obama a diversity accomplishment (the first female, African-American justice), breaks the unanimous pattern of selecting justices from federal appellate courts (Sears was elected to lead a conservative state's supreme court and is currently in private practice) and promises to deliver liberal rejoinders to Scalia without seeming so liberal as to fuel a 3-ring circus in a Senate confirmation hearing (she preserved a self-styled "moderately progressive" label during a 20-year judicial career). Ironically, her most contentious feature may be an enduring friendship with Justice Thomas

Her judicial philosophy regarding the hot-button social issues so dear to the hearts of conservatives is probably most clearly evident in her Powell v. State concurrence. Clearly lecturing social conservatives, she praises the majority's "inspired" and "courageous" decision to strike down laws prohibiting sodomy while sneering at the "moral indignation of a majority (or, even worse, a loud and/or radical minority)." Moral enlightenment, in Sears' view, clearly rests with the judiciary, rather than the people.  

Sears isn't presently touted as the front-runner for Stevens' seat, but I suspect her star is still rising. Conservatives will have plenty of red-meat for a mid-summer confirmation row (costing Dems further losses in November), but I suspect she would overcome a filibuster. 

Categories > Courts

Discussions - 2 Comments

I think you mean Justice Stevens not Souter.

That's what you get for typing on the go.


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