Archive for the ‘Opinions’ Category

ruth_bader_ginsburg2c_scotus_photo_portraitWith U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggesting today that there may be an opening on the bench in the near future , I decided to post a Facebook note that my good friend Christian Nwachukwu, Jr. wrote recently that includes a list of his wishes/predictions for who President Obama should tap to fill the seat if it should open.  Christian draws from the worlds of academia, politics, and the justice system to create a list of people who, even if they never get close to the high court, you should definitely know.  Let me know what you think.



By Christian Nwachukwu, Jr.


We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges. – President Barack Obama

Whither lists? Or, and perhaps more important, why? Well, they are extraordinarily helpful for organizing ideas-the grocery store can be mapped; the day wrangled; the career ladder bulleted and dead-lined. Prospects-for love or money-are plotted in a single place, to be re-visited at will, viewed on demand. Thornier, though, is to what end? The why of lists seems sufficient if the list is private; but what of public lists: the editorial in underline, bold letters in newsprint or web log? To influence? To provoke? To predict? Perhaps. For the reporter, beat or institution, perhaps all of these. For the adviser, probably only the first. For me? Of course, it is always a delight to be right (see Loadholt, Jarrod re: Vice President Joe Biden), but that is not the driver of this list. If it were, my list would be shorter (Power Ball is won with six numbers for a reason). While I believe any of my “names” could be confirmed, I make no claim that they will be nominated-only that they should be. Is this list biased? Doubtless. I did not undertake this exercise as either journalist or adviser, but rather, as citizen. My criteria are my own-lensed by my life and limited only by the president’s words, which appear above. You will find that it is peopled primarily with women. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer demands that any list be dominated by the names of women. But my list would lean heavily on feminine shoulders, regardless. The current Court-eight men and one woman-reflects the classrooms of the nation’s law schools not seen since 1970. The time for a high court with more than two women has passed. Let us catch up. It is also largely African American. That there has never been a black woman nominated to the Supreme Court seems to me a bit like Duke Ellington never having won a proper Pulitzer for music(1)-their names were excluded (see Constance Baker Motley, et al.). I have decided to write them in. Also, names are notably absent-there are several people who are proving astoundingly suited to their current positions, or who I hope will ascend to higher perches of public service that a Supreme Court appointment would preclude, e.g. Attorney General Eric Holder; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and Senator Claire McCaskill, among them. Many of those listed are judges-this is more a consequence of recognizing reality than personal preference, i.e. if I ruled the world Dr. David Levering Lewis would have made the cut (to my thinking, his mere months at University of Michigan School of Law is sufficient legal tenure for an intellectual lion). The list is, sadly, ageist. Dr. Levering Lewis is 72 (perhaps two strikes is a strike too many). The newest member of the Court, Justice Samuel Alito, Jr., is 58. Although he was 56 upon his appointment, I used his current age as my cut-off. Were human hearts to routinely beat for a century and more I would have perhaps named Eleanor Holmes Norton (71); Marian Wright Edelman (69); Drew S. Days, III (67); Robert Harris (66); Susan Deller Ross (65); Barrington Parker, Jr. (64); or Eric L. Clay (61). But we must make do in the world as we find it, and in this world Justice Clarence Thomas (60) ascended to the Supreme Court at 43. Finally, there were several notables routinely mentioned on the shortest of short lists in the days following news of Justice Ginsburg’s surgery, e.g. Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Judge Diane Wood. With apologies to Nina Totenberg and Jeffrey Toobin, their names are absent from my list. I like them and would be pleased were the president to name either. But this is a list for the warming of cockles (mine), the breaking out of champagne if any of it becomes reality (by me), and my general pleasure and good cheer. And there goes another reason: lists can be fun.

In no particular order; drum-roll, please:


1. sonya2Sonia Sotomayor, 54 (Princeton, Yale), United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. A former editor of the Yale Law Journal and former Assistant District Attorney to New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, Judge Sotomayor became the first Hispanic federal judge in New York State in 1991. Conservatives have long maintained that her appointment was part of a deal by President George H. W. Bush and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. And President Bill Clinton nominated Judge Sotomayor to the appellate court in 1997, upon which she was roundly criticized by the Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages and Rush Limbaugh. But Sotomayor is “widely considered a political centrist by the American Bar Association” (New York Times, USA Today), and her name appeared on short lists for President George W. Bush. This worries me. But I am cautiously optimistic about the service she would render as a United States Supreme Court Associate Justice.
2. 72371634BP015_clintondemsJennifer Granholm, 50 (University of California, Berkeley, Harvard), Governor of Michigan. The Canadian-born American, Governor Granholm has served as her state’s Attorney General and is currently serving her final (due to term limits) term as Michigan’s governor. Her name has also been floated for the now-vacant Commerce Secretary slot.
3. roseboroughTeresa Wynn Roseborough, 50 (University of Virginia, Boston University, UNC School of Law), Chief Litigation Counsel at MetLife. A former editor of the North Carolina Law Review, Roseborough served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Clinton Administration and worked as a law clerk for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge James Dickson Phillips, Jr., and as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. She was brought in as counsel to Vice President Al Gore in 2000. The American Spectator reported in its November 1997 issue that President Clinton had intended to nominate Roseborough to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, but that Senator Orrin Hatch, then-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, “balked” at the appointment and “suggested that a more moderate Clinton-appointed U.S. district judge, Frank Hull, would have clear sailing.” Judge Hull was ultimately nominated and confirmed.
4. deval_1Deval Patrick, 52 (Harvard, Harvard School of Law), Governor of Massachusetts. A former Assistant Attorney General in the Clinton Administration, attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, businessman, and close friend to the president, Governor Patrick is my pick for most likely to become the high court’s next liberal lion. His tenure as Massachusetts’s governor has not been entirely smooth, but whose is?
5. searsLeah Ward Sears, 53 (Cornell, Emory), Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia and Chair of the Judicial Council of Georgia. Justice Sears, who began her judicial career when Mayor Andrew Young named her to the Atlanta Traffic Court in 1985, became the first African American woman to serve on Georgia’s Superior Court in 1988; the first woman and youngest person to sit on the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1992; and the first African American female Chief Justice in the United States in 2005.
6. victoriarobertsVictoria A. Roberts, 57 (University of Michigan, Northeastern), U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. A former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Judge Roberts’s name was originally held up for confirmation by Senate Republicans after she was nominated by President Clinton. Then she met for an hour in Justice Clarence Thomas’s chambers. According to the Washington Post: “He told her how he grew up listening to Motown artists and rattled off tunes by the Temptations, the Marvelettes, and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. About 15 or 20 minutes into the conversation, Thomas abruptly stopped, Roberts recalled. ‘I have spent longer talking to you than I talked to President [George H.W.] Bush when my name was submitted to the bench,’ he told Roberts. ‘To this day, I’m still not certain why or how I got this nomination.'” After the meeting, Thomas called his friend Judge Damon Keith, who had vouched for Roberts: “You can tell her she’ll be confirmed. I’ve talked to Orrin Hatch and Trent Lott.”

7.patricia Patricia Timmons-Goodson, 54 (UNC, UNC School of Law), Associate Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. A former Fayetteville prosecutor, Judge Timmons-Goodson served as a District Court judge from 1984 to1997 and on the North Carolina Court of Appeals from 1997 to 2005. She has served on North Carolina’s high court since 2006.

8. richardRichard L. Revesz, 50 (Princeton, Yale), Dean of the New York University School of Law. Argentina-born Revesz edited the Yale Law Journal and clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall. He has taught Environmental and Administrative Law and has served as his school’s dean since 2002.


9. jesse_jackson_jrJesse Jackson, Jr., 43 (N.C. A&T, Chicago Theological Seminary, University of Illinois School of Law), Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives representing Illinois’s 2nd congressional district. Despite the dust-up surrounding Congressman Jackson and allegations of impropriety relating to former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s attempts to fill President Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat, the young Congressman’s record speaks for itself.

10. 20070227_napolitano_3Janet Napolitano, 51 (Santa Clara University, University of Virginia), Secretary of Homeland Security. Governor Napolitano served as Arizona’s Attorney General and was re-elected as her state’s governor in 2006. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton as United States Attorney for the District of Arizona where she focused on consumer protection issues and improving general law enforcement. Napolitano served as an attorney for Anita Hill in 1991.


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When Does Gay Tolerance Go Too Far?

By Gerren Gaynor—Black College Wire/The Maroon Tiger

Posted February 16, 2009 9:00 AM

gaynorIt’s no secret that the gay population on Morehouse’s campus does not go unnoticed. Take a walk down Brown Street on a clear spring day, and one will quickly learn that Morehouse College is an institution unlike no other for reasons far more than the “Morehouse Mystique.”

Although Dr. Franklin has urged men of Morehouse on various occasions to treat each other with the utmost respect (especially homosexual students), I notice the prevailing discomfort between our heterosexual students and their homosexual counterparts. You know how it goes: a cluster of openly gay students walk by, and a group of heterosexual students suddenly stop what they’re doing to either avoid making any contact whatsoever, or look on with a sense of disgust. Or when class discussions happen to run on the topic of homosexuality, and that one openly homosexual student steps up to the plate to defend himself and his lifestyle. The silence in the classroom is one of much uneasiness for no one wants to counter-respond in fear of coming off too strong. Awkward?

I don’t want to get into the religious, scientific, or philosophical explanations and connotations of homosexuality; however, I do find that this taboo subject merits great conversation.

This lovely man-producing institution, Morehouse College, contains many homosexual students, some openly and others not so much. Heterosexual students, through their unsettlement with this reality, tend to make gay slurs within the comfort of their friends, and homosexual students do whatever it is that they do behind close doors. That’s the reality.

Over the years, despite social divergence on campus, the Morehouse community has done their share to both accept and adjust to the growing homosexual population. But don’t you think this has gone too far? A boy with a pocketbook is far.

It’s not so much that “straight” men of Morehouse are uncomfortable with the gay lifestyle, but more so because it is constantly and quite robustly thrown in their face. Does being a gay man include adopting the traits of a woman? Because if that’s the case, there’s a more fitting school, and it’s called Spelman College. (more…)

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You Gotta Love the First Lady. No, Really, You Have No Choice.

By Robin Givhan

Washington Post Staff Writer 

Sunday, February 15, 2009; Page Mo1

The rise of first lady Michelle Obama as an icon—of fashion, black womanhood, working motherhood and middle-class success—has propelled her onto a pedestal that would surely give the average person vertigo.  She is Jackie Kennedy, Sojourner Truth, Hillary Clinton and a Horatio Alger character all rolled into one J. Crew-clad package.

Obama has slipped into that rarefied world in which normal human behavior — concern for one’s children, a preference for wearing jeans on the weekend, the ability to look other people in the eye while they’re speaking to you — is perceived by many as an incomparable example of graciousness, familial commitment and kindness.

Criticize her at your peril. For there are bloggers, mainstream writers and pundits who seem intent on keeping the path clear for her canonization. This observation is not intended to take anything away from the professional accomplishments of the new first lady. Or to diminish the thoughtful way in which she seems to treat people. And she should be enthusiastically cheered for pushing an often-ignored story into the spotlight: the tale of accomplished, stylish black women and their functional black families. Obama is extraordinary. But she is not exceptional. (more…)

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