Bench Memos

Kagan’s Inexperience

For those in the blogosphere who seem confused on the point, my position is that judicial experience is the best training for a Supreme Court justice (and provides the best measure of a nominee). That doesn’t mean that I think that judicial experience is essential, so please don’t imagine that you’re somehow refuting me by pointing out the obvious fact that there have been good justices who haven’t had previous judicial experience. Lack of judicial experience is a deficit to be overcome, but some of Elena Kagan’s supporters seem eager to recast that deficit as an asset.

My broader point (set forth in point 2 of my summary post) with respect to Kagan’s record is that, in addition to no judicial experience, she has remarkably little real-world legal experience and, notwithstanding all her years in academia, only a scant record of legal scholarship. That’s why I think she may well have less overall experience relevant to the work of a justice than any entering justice in the last five decades or more. Does that mean that she couldn’t possibly prove to be a quality justice? Of course not. But it is an obvious weakness in her nomination.

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