Kevin Aylward thinks US Democrats could learn a lot from Tony Blair. I’d agree and add that, so could a lot of US Republicans.

I have one minor quibble with Kevin’s post, which brings to mind something that’s been in the back of my mind for some time. He quotes Joe Lieberman as saying that Kweise Mfume should be appointed to the Supreme Court and remarks,

When one of the most electable of all the Democratic candidates for president suggests appointing a non lawyer to the Supreme Court there is still clearly cause for concern.

Now, while I can think of many reasons not to appoint Mfume to SCOTUS, I’m not sure why one has to be a lawyer to sit on the Supreme Court. While I would think that requisite for a trial judge, since that job requires making instantaneous legal judgments, Supreme Court Justices have law clerks to research the precedents and the statutes and have all the time in the world to think about things.

The job of SCOTUS is to interpret the Constitution and to reconcile conflicting statutes. Lawyers seem not to be all that good at it, judging from the fact that so many of them can’t seem to read the Constitutution and seem to have scant knowledge of history. Maybe we should start appointing political scientists. Or, medical doctors, engineers, businessmen and others with intelligence and broad experience. Lawyers are, as a class at least, quite bright, but I’m not sure “thinking like a lawyer” is the best thing for the top appelate court.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kevin Whited says:

    I could go for a political theorist to the Court! Maybe even a Straussian (preferably of the West Coast variety). 🙂

  2. Alan says:

    I recall being told by a local Justice of the Peace, proudly, that his level of the judiciary (lowest) and the US Supreme Court (highest) had in common that neither *requires* a law degree as a qualification.