Friday, January 23, 2015

The Supreme Court's Massive Blind Spot
"This term, the Supreme Court heard two cases involving the actions of police officers during traffic stops. How the court comes down on the two cases will likely have significant repercussions far beyond the facts of the cases themselves. The court’s decisions could affect how police target motorists, which motorists they target and how often, and how they interact with motorists once they’ve pulled them over. The decisions will likely affect how police profile motorists to look for drug couriers, who gets detained and searched, and who has property confiscated through civil asset forfeiture.

Here’s the problem: You’d be hard-pressed to assemble nine lawyers in America who as a collective are further removed from the realities of the facts of these cases than the nine justices of the Supreme Court. The road from law school to the Supreme Court today starts at Harvard or Yale (all nine of the current justices attended Harvard or Yale for law school, although Ruth Bader Ginsberg later transferred to Columbia). From there the next stop is a clerkship or two with a federal judge, followed by a post in academia, the Justice Department, or a white shoe law firm. Rise quickly and get noticed, and you might eventually earn an appointment to the federal judiciary. From there you’ll want to write strong opinions (but not too strong) that will attract the eye of court watchers, influential ideological organizations like the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society, and the legal media commentators who draw up those Supreme Court short lists.

What’s missing from that career trajectory is any real experience in criminal law...."

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