A Professional Judiciary?
Yesterday I was struck by an interesting fact. Thus far, all but one of President Obama’s Circuit Court nominees are sitting District Court judges. Justice Sotomayor, of course, was promoted by President from the Second Circuit after serving on the District Court in New York.
I think this is a bad trend. One of the strengths of our judiciary, in contrast to the European civil service tradition, is that we draw on people with a wide variety of backgrounds (private attorneys, elected officials, prosecutors, and . . . yes, professors). Narrowing the pool to sitting judges harms the quality of the bench and creates undue pressure on District judges to act in a politically safe way in the hope of getting promoted. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with the occasional District Judge elevation. But can the White House really find nobody else who is qualified?