In selecting a Supreme Court justice, the important thing isn’t figuring out where she went to school—it’s figuring where she came from before she went to school, and what she did after. Democrats presumably object to Ivy League justices because they believe Ivy Leaguers aren’t connected to the real people their rulings will affect. As Schumer put it, “they miss the practical.” But all Yalies were such out-of-touch elitists, why would 80 percent of them be on financial aid (compared to 50 percent at Stevens’s alma mater, Northwestern)? Sonia Sotomayor went to New Haven for law school (and Princeton for undergrad). But she was also raised by a single mother in a drug- and crime-ridden Bronx housing project. I’d argue that the latter has more to do with her perspective than the former. A similar principle applies to Stevens. It wasn’t his non-Ivy background that made him such a “practical” justice—after all, his father was a wealthy hotelier, and Northwestern is a Top 10 law school. It was his two-plus decades as a practicing attorney in Chicago.
Perhaps the inevitable conclusion here is the one nobody wants to say out loud: we have known for years that treatment works better than incarceration when it comes to criminal defendants with drug and mental-health problems. We also know that close supervision and monitoring work better than casting our most vulnerable citizens adrift. Veterans deserve special treatment for their service, and the fact that veterans’ courts seem to work as well as they do suggests that politicians needn’t justify their existence beyond that fact. But whether we really want to create first- and -second-class criminal-justice services, and whether we can truly draw any principled line between nonviolent veterans and violent ones in the judicial treatment they receive, are not easy political questions, but thorny legal ones.
Pop quiz: which of the following names represents a non-sectarian, universal deity? Allah, Dios, Gott, Dieu, Elohim, Gud, or Jesus?
If you answered “none of the above,” you are right as a matter of fact but not law. If you answered “Allah,” you are right as a matter of law but not fact. And if you answered “Jesus,” you might have been trying to filibuster David Hamilton, Barack Obama’s first judicial nominee.