What Does “Qualified” Mean?

strawman

With the announcement by David Souter that he intends to retire from SCOTUS at the end of this term the usual suspects are getting their panties in a twist over the possibility that white men will be discriminated against in the selection of a replacement.  They are worried that gender, race and/or sexual orientation will matter more than qualifications, raising the spectre of an unqualified vajajay-possessing “w-word” getting the job.  That’s bullshit!

First of all, “qualified” is a vague term.

There are many people with the education and experience to be appointed to SCOTUS, including most federal appellate justices, many state appellate justices, as well as some scholars and politicians.  As far as education we would expect someone who graduated from a nationally accredited law school.  That would imply that they also had at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.

We would expect that any appointee would have practiced law for a substantial period, generally including some time as an appellate justice on the state or federal bench.  There are notable exceptions.  Earl Warren was never a judge, prior to his SCOTUS appointment he was a district attorney, Attorney General and Governor of California.  Thurgood Marshall was chief counsel for the NAACP and won a number of civil rights cases including Brown v. Board of Education.

Those are the qualifications we would expect, and many people meet that threshold.  Age and ideology are desirable characteristics, not qualifications. But even if you narrowed the “qualified” group by considering only candidates who are moderate to liberal and within a range of 40 to 60 years of age, there is still a sizable group to choose from.

Since all of that group are “qualified” it is perfectly appropriate to consider characteristics like gender, race and/or sexual orientation in order to provide more diversity to SCOTUS.  At that point what other characteristics matter more?

In our 200+ year history we have had two women and two black justices on the highest court in our land.  There have been no hispanics or asians, nor any known gays or lesbians.  It’s time for a change.

Does the name of the school on their diploma matter more than the body of work they have completed in the two to three decades since they graduated?  Does it really matter that much what grades and/or honors they recieved, or what student offices they held?

Keep in mind that institutional sexism and racism will have affected the educational and professional careers of women and minorities, and doubly so minority women.  Their gender and/or race made it harder to get into good schools, get hired, promoted, and/or receive recognition.  To use that against them now is to perpetuate the discrimination.

But if you think white men in this country are being discriminated against then I have a bridge I want to sell you.

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