Gender should not factor into the selection of a United States Supreme Court Justice. Anyone nominated for such a prestigious judicial positions should merit the post based upon the outstanding qualities of his or her legal acumen and high moral character alone. Both women and men should therefore qualify.
Taking into account the gender of a potential jurist as a specific factor in a nomination demeans the significance of the candidate’s abilities and contributions to the legal system.
Although many Americans feel strongly that important institutions should reflect the diversity of the nation’s entire population, the issues decided by the United States Supreme Court demand exceptional ability above all. Superficial concern relating to a gender balanced Court ignores the importance of the underlying work the Justices perform.
Three specific arguments suggesting that the gender of a jurist should not factor into the nomination process at all. These points relate to the undeniable political role of the Court, the complexity of many modern legal issues and the impossibility of ever achieveing a genuinely demographically “balanced” court.
An overview: the United States Supreme Court
Today, the United States Supreme Court still enjoys widespread respect from the general population. Nine men and women serve as Justices on the Court. They fill indefinite terms which last until death or resignation (whichever comes first).
A Justice typically obtains his or her post only after receiving a presidential nomination and then winning confirmation from the United States Senate. Rigorous questioning generally characterizes the confirmation hearings conducted by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and some candidates meet with rejection.
Although the Founding Fathers allegedly may not originally have envisioned an especially prominent role for the nation’s highest judicial body, the function of the United States Supreme Court expanded significantly during the tenure of one of the earliest Chief Justices. John Marshall, a Federalist and a veteran of the American Revolutionary War, served in office during the pivotal decades between 1801 and 1835. He played an important part in establishing the authority of the United States Supreme Court in formulating controlling legal opinions covering many different aspects of law in the United States.
A political role despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s function
The Justices sitting on the United States Supreme Court issue opinions which help mold the course of law in a variety of critical areas. Although the Court places a high value on precedent, the majority opinion may sometimes deviate from established case law in response to specific fact situations.
Indeed, especially over the course of the past century, the United States Supreme Court often played a significant political role: perhaps the most infamous recent illustration appears in the case in which the Justices essentially resolved the 2000 presidential election.
The United States Constitution does not specify gender allocations for elected members of Congress and the Executive Branch. Demanding that nominees to the politically significant United States Supreme Court fall into statistically representative categories exceeds the scope of the role established for the nation’s highest court.
Probably most American hope for a competent court filled with jurists who appreciate the finer nuances of legal arguments; yet since both men and women today practice law successfully in the United States, the gender issue itself as a consideration has grown very outdated.
The complexities of modern legal issues require intrinsic judicial merit
A second argument also weighs against insisting upon a statistically representative U. S. Supreme Court. Today, as globalism and international trading agreements draw the nations of the world into closer commercial contact with one another than ever before, cases reach the federal courts which require highly skilled jurists.
Do litigants care more whether a judge is male or female—or whether he or she had demonstrated competence in understanding the details of various aspects of increasingly technically complex types of law? Probably the presence of a genuinely skillful and impartial decision maker matters far more to the parties whose cases reach the highest tribunal in the land.
By the time a case reaches the United States Supreme Court, the parties (and generally interested observers) have submitted copious amounts of paperwork supporting or opposing particular positions. Since both men and women possess the innate capacity to understand complex issues, the character, judgment and legal brilliance of the Justices impact the outcome of cases.
Achieving a genuine demographic balance remains an impossible ideal
Finally, a third reason why the gender of a person nominated to serve on the United States Supreme Court should not become a deciding factor in a confirmation or rejection relates to the absurdity of attaining a genuinely representative demographic “balance” on a nine person court. Obviously, the Justices cannot possibly reflect the diversity of the entire nation. Various ethnic groups, age groups and religious affiliations within the USA will not be present in the membership of the highest court in the land- why, indeed, should gender become such a significant issue then?
The famous liberal litigator Clarence Darrow once rather cynically observed: “There is no such thing as justice- in or out of court.” Lawyers and judges can only do their best to promote the ideals of a system which remains imperfect in some respects.
The legal system in the United States struggles to bridge the gulf between different perspectives about truth whenever a legal matter goes to court. In this environment, superficial issues such as the gender of a jurist should matter less to society than his of her inherent merit as a judge, integrity and dedication.