Bush Willing to Consider Non-Judges for the Court

Bush willing to consider non-judges for high court (Reuters)

President Bush said on Wednesday he would be willing to consider people who are not judges for a Supreme Court opening a day after key senators recommended he broaden his search.

Bush is seeking to avoid a bitter partisan battle over his choice for the U.S. high court, which rules on many social issues like abortion and civil rights, and is consulting members of Congress on who they would like to see on the high court while insisting they will not get a veto on his selection.

Many of the potential candidates for the job to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor are believed to be U.S. circuit court judges. A small bipartisan group of senators who met with Bush on Monday said he should also consider non-judges.

“Would I be willing to consider people who had never been a judge? And the answer is: You bet. We’re considering all kinds of people: judges, non-judges,” Bush told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

Hardly unprecedented, to be sure. As long as someone has a sound legal mind, I’m not sure service on a lower court is particularly useful, given that the Supreme Court is sui generis.

FILED UNDER: Uncategorized, , ,
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. Me says:


    Sui generis is a (post) Latin expression, literally meaning of its own gender/genus or unique in its characteristics. The expression was effectively created by scholastic philosophy to indicate an idea, an entity or a reality that cannot be included in a wider concept, and in the structure genus > species a species that heads its own genus.

    In law, it is a term of art used to identify a legal classification that exists independently of other categorizations because of its uniqueness or due to the specific creation of an entitlement or obligation.

  2. Anderson says:

    Not a bad idea, leaving aside Bush’s interest in finding someone with no paper trail. The Court benefits from not having 9 freakin’ judges on it.

    Ideally, there should be a couple of career litigators, a couple of legislators, and the rest former judges.

  3. Gordie says:

    This opens the way for him to nominate Karl Rove as justice. What better way to demonstrate his loyaly to a trusted political advisor?

  4. Scott in CA says:

    I don’t believe a law degree is necessary to sit on the Court. How about a legal scholar?

  5. Anderson says:

    Sure, put Rove on the Court, and then apply Jones v. Clinton to argue that pesky pre-service legal issues should be deferred to after one’s term lifetime appointment.

  6. Dean says:

    The issue I see with opening the door to non-judges and even more so non-lawyers, is track record under fire.

    Waxing poetically about the law is very different than making decisions about actual issues. I would take a judge with a track record in a heartbeat. At least then you more clearly understand what you are getting.

  7. Paulie says:

    This certainly would not be out of character for Bush. In fact, I would not be surprised if he took a page out of John Aadams’ book and picked another Bushrod Washington. Often Supreme Court appointees have been given their position as political paybacks such as Bushrod or even someone like Lucius Q.C. Lamar.

  8. Anderson says:

    L.Q.C. Lamar! My law school’s namesake & the only Mississippian to serve on the high court!

    Time for # 2: let’s see Bush nominate Trent Lott!


  9. Russ says:

    I’m available. Not only am I not a judge, heck, I’m not even a lawyer.

    Nowhere is it required that a Supreme Court justice even have a law school education. Given the plain language of the Constitution, the only absolute qualification should be the ability to read plain English.

    I keep saying it, but no one ever listens.

  10. It certainly is not unprecedented to take folks from someplace other than the bench as a Supreme Court Justice. The last one I remember is some guy by the name of Rehnquist, appointed by Nixon.

    I like the notion of a Senator — especially one with a strong record as a judge or justice on the state level. My candidate? John Cornyn, former justice of the Texas Supreme Court, who resigned to run for Texas Attorney General served in that office for four years before being elected to the Senate. He served with Owen and Gonzales, and was well-regarded.

    As a Senator, it is less likely that he will be savaged by the Democrats — after all, if they don’t confirm he they will have to continue to work with him on a daily basis, and they don’t want to create that sort of bad blood.

  11. McGehee says:

    Guess I oughta send in my resume.