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Colorado Supreme Court – better than SCOTUS?

Thu, Apr 15, 2010

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In a column in today’s New York Times, Timothy Egan opines that President Obama’s choice to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court should be someone who, unlike every sitting justice, attended neither Harvard nor Yale Law.

Makes sense to me – and, I suspect, to the majority of Coloradans.

I’m sure that the aspiring lawyers who are admitted to either law school are smart and capable. I’m also sure that graduates of both institutions constitute a linked, mutually supportive network of the powerful and the soon-to-be-powerful. They would be surprised and offended to be thought members of an accidental aristocracy, heirs to power in the sense that the sons and daughters of the superrich are heirs to wealth.

But that’s exactly what they are. The Yale/Harvard meritocracy is as accidental, and as lucky for many of its members, as would be a big fat trust fund. And just as trust funders tend to squander their inheritances, the eight Yale/Harvard alumni/alumnae who currently sit on the court don’t seem to be extraordinarily competent, knowledgeable, or even in touch with the people they supposedly serve.

Consider, by contrast, the Colorado Supreme Court.

According to the Court’s Web site, “The Supreme Court is composed of seven justices who serve ten-year terms. The Chief Justice is selected from the membership of the body and serves at the pleasure of a majority of the justices. The Chief Justice also serves as the executive head of the Colorado Judicial System and is the ex-officio chair of the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. The Chief Justice appoints the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals and the Chief Judge of each of the state’s 22 judicial districts, and is vested with the authority to assign judges (active or retired) to perform judicial duties.”

The seven justices of the court include three women and four men. Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey, the court’s longest-serving member, has been on the bench since 1987, while the most recent appointee Justice Alison Eid, took her seat during 2006

The seven justices are a diverse, interesting group of people. Justice Gregory Hobbs is a published poet, while Justice Eid still has children in school. Justice Mullarkey attended Harvard Law, while other justices received their law degrees from a variety of institutions, including the University of Utah, Colorado University, and the University of Chicago.

Comparing our guys to the cranky, quarrelsome uber-lawyers who currently sit on SCOTUS, I’d far rather have the poets, moms, and unpretentious legal veterans who make up our state’s highest court decide the fate of the nation.

I guess that we can’t do a seven-for-eight swap, but it would be nice if our president could leave his own comfort zone, and consider nominees whose resumes contain neither the ‘H’ nor the ‘Y’ words.

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