The law professor

>> Thursday, February 07, 2008

I really don't want to keep harping on politics. I'll have the second piece in the Oh By The Way series by the weekend, I swear it. If I don't listen to Saucerful again for the series tomorrow, I'll sit down with it Saturday. It's a sorta big entry, because Saucerful was the last Pink Floyd album (from a certain point of view); but listen:

I don't want to keep harping on politics, but there's a nice piece in Slate about how Barack Obama might pick Supreme Court Justices if he were elected President. It's worth reading--not because it gives any real insight into how Mr. Obama might pick Justices, and anyway those kinds of parlor games are useless. Eisenhower picked Earl Warren and George H. W. Bush picked David Souter. You just never really know how those kinds of things are going to work out.

No, the reason it's a good piece is that it does share some anecdotes about how Mr. Obama thinks about law, and that's a useful antidote to all these "But he has no experience" and "He's young and charismatic, but there's no substance"-style plaints one keeps seeing everywhere. It's a lot of nonsense, really. I mean, Hillary Clinton isn't actually much more experienced, and neither was Abraham Lincoln or John Kennedy or, if you're talking about political experience, George Washington. Our system was really designed to elect sensible people, not experienced ones--not that it's really worked out that way, just that it was designed that way. It's not like any of the Founders had that much experience running a country, after all. Let's face it, they were kind of winging it with the advice of some pretty impressive personal libraries.

Anyway, Mr. Obama's approach to the law comes across as a sensible, informed, scholarly one. Exactly the approach one might expect from a man who taught Con Law at the University Of Chicago Law School for eleven years.

Mrs. Clinton is an experienced attorney, and a legal wizard for sure. But it would seem her approach to the law might be... I don't know... sort of law-firmy, if that makes any sense? Consider this from the Slate piece:

[Georgetown law professor Neal] Katyal, who has been called in by both senators [Clinton and Obama], described what sounded like a typical establishment vs. insurgency split between the two. Clinton "comes at it a bit more from a top-down perspective," he said, "as in, 'elites are likely to know what the right answer is.' She'll likely talk to the Nobel Prize winner, but maybe not be as likely to talk to the people on the ground affected by the policies." Obama, on the other hand, talked to Katyal for two hours when the Military Commissions Act, which sought to limit the Guantanamo detainees' right to bring appeals in federal court, was being debated in the Senate. He wanted to know how the proposed law would play out directly for the detainees, and Katyal was representing Salim Ahmed Hamdan before the Supreme Court.

Maybe it's because I'm a public defender, but what can I say? I like Obama's approach.

Anyway, please go read the article. It's worth a look.

And I'll try to get off the subject of politics for a little while. I tend to get headaches from it.


Janiece Murphy Friday, February 8, 2008 at 7:37:00 PM EST  

I knew Obama taught Con Law, and that's one of the reasons I support him. It would be so very refreshing to have a president who's actually, you know, read the Constitution.

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