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What Women Want

Posted in Judges on Wednesday May 13 2009 @ 8:25am

What do women want in a Supreme Court Justice?

Not surprisingly, women are more likely to want President Obama to appoint a woman to the highest court's bench. A recent Gallup poll suggested that 38% of women surveyed believed such an appointment is essential or a good idea. This is in comparison to men, only 24% of whom thought appointing a woman was essential or a good idea.

But they're not *that* much more likely. Thirty-eight percent is still not very many. Why?

Ignorance could be one reason: it could be that, as one researcher noted, It is unclear how much the average American knows about the current demographic composition of the Supreme Court. Indeed, every so often we see surveys showing that Homer Simpson and Jessica Simpson are more recognizable to the general public than the current vice president is. See No Clamor for High Court Appointee to Be Woman, Minority, Frank Newport, Gallup (May 13, 2009), and Americans Not Concerned with Diversity on Supreme Court, Poll Shows, Mark Silva, L.A. Times (May 13, 2009).

Another reason could be that those surveyed are thoughtful. Diversity is a good goal, but it may not achieve anything beyond itself. That is, diversity achieves diversity. Justice Thomas, for example, has not turned any tides (nor do we believe he wants to). A minority woman on the SCOTUS? Which minority? Which woman? Dahlia Lithwick decodes it all for you in The Fairer Sex, Slate (April 11, 2009).

Justice Souter was appointed in the hopes that he would be a right-wing anchor. Recall, too, that Justice Stevens was a Ford appointee. Could there be a reverse-Souter effect in which an appointee slides to the right after a few years under the robe? See the hopeful Let's Have a Reverse Souter, Matthew J. Franck, National Review (May 1, 2009). As Billie Holiday sang, One never knows, does one?

Finally, one commentator suggests that what the bench needs is a person with high emotional intelligence. See A Judge Without Empathy is Inhuman, Robert Burton, Salon (May 12, 2009).

So what do women want for the SCOTUS? Given that this country's women include Sarah Palin, Wanda Sykes, Carrie Prejean, and Sister Helen Prejean, our opinions are more diverse than the Supreme Court ever will be.

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