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May 14th, 2009
11:51 AM ET

Dershowitz: Court shouldn't be gender-balanced

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption= "Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz tells CNN's Kiran Chetry the Supreme Court should not be gender-balanced."]

Senate leaders who met with President Obama Wednesday said the president told them he’ll name his Supreme Court nominee soon. CNN is learning that the field has now been narrowed to about a half dozen names. Most of the people on the list are women.

Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz says it would be a mistake for President Obama to say the seat on the court belongs only to a woman. He spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Thursday.

Alan Dershowitz: It's a superb list. Elena Kagan is my former dean and a friend. I’ve argued cases in front of Judge Sotomayor and I know the others on the list. It's a very, very good list. My concern is this – the impression is being created, perhaps it's a false impression, that what President Obama has done is said bring me a list of women, Latinos and I'll pick from that the most qualified people. That can create a very bad starting point for any justice. They're not on the court as representatives of a particular gender or ethnicity. They are there because they are supposed to be the greatest legal minds in the country capable of dealing with some of the most complex issues. So I hope he picks the most qualified people. Among the most qualified people, obviously, are very distinguished women and Latinos and Asians and others of diverse backgrounds.

Kiran Chetry: If you look at the court it is dominated by white men. Is the court supposed to represent the country's population? And maybe it is or maybe it isn't, but half of the country is made up of females. Don't you think it's in the interest or responsibility of the president to try to bring some gender balance to the court?

Dershowitz: No. I don't think balance is the appropriate function of the Supreme Court. If you were looking at who should be represented on the court, there is only one white Protestant on the entire court and this is a country primarily of white Protestants. We don't want to see the court divided into kind of representative justices the way we have representative congress people and senators. I think that's the wrong approach to the court. You have a president like Obama who is, clearly, color blind and gender blind. We trust him, I think, to pick the best people. He is not going to be accused of in any way engaging in prejudice. Let him pick the best person. It’s very likely that best person might very well be a woman or a person of Latino background but I think it's a mistake for him to set out in advance to say I want only a woman, this is a woman's seat on the court.

Chetry: Let's talk about some of the women or some of the potential justices or candidates here. Let's talk about Sonia Sotomayor. She’s a federal Appeals Court justice. Republicans are already sending out some warnings about her about a past statement she made where she said, “Court of Appeals is where policy is made.” Some concerns about those comments. What do you think?

Dershowitz: Well, of course, policy is made in every court. People who criticize judges who make policy don't like the particular policies they're making. Judicial policies are made by the court whether to accept an exclusionary rule, whether to support Affirmative Action. Courts are very important in our country and they do make policies. In fact, the Supreme Court really makes the policies, Court of Appeals implement the policies of the Supreme Court. But that surely is not a disqualifying statement.

Chetry: How about Elena Kagan?

Dershowitz: She’s a terrific woman. She was a great dean at the Harvard Law School. She brought people together. She has the ability really to work with people of every background and every view. She would have the intellectual horsepower to take on Justice Scalia or some of the others. She was a great dean at the law school. We miss her and she would be a great justice, I think.

Chetry: Some of the other ones on the list are federal Appeals Court Justice Diane Wood, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Michigan's Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Dershowitz: An excellent list.

Filed under: Supreme Court
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Bernice

    I think that the appointed seat in the Supreme Court should be filled with an EDUCATED person, who seeks justice for the American People! I have said long before it even happened that Michelle Obama would get the seat! Why? This way he would have his very own wife heading the Supreme Court! FOR LIFE!! I think that this should be banned, but right after I said it, her name ended up on that list! Before this administration is done, our country (in my opinion) will by in full control by the US govt. Big govt is upon us. He is quite a sneaky and manipulative man if you ask me ...and MANY others. You should NOT be able to sell that seat, nor appoint your wife to it! Just think of the manipulations that could start taking place! Heck!! Our justice system is just about a joke as it is already (lol) ,isn't it? They should not be able to appoint this seat to ANY family member setting them up for life to be in power of our nations courts!! NEVER!! But, you watch ...the just may! What a shame that would be! Everyone needs to start taking off thier rose colored glasses, and look at this government with a little reality. We are being taken over by big govt. and we the people should be trying very hard to stop it! Not condone it!

    May 16, 2009 at 7:18 am |
  2. Ben

    So you're comparing the Dean of Harvard Law School to a dog or cat? How about giving folks an IQ test so they can post on the internet.

    May 15, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  3. michael armstrong sr.

    heres an idea for you why dont we just elect a dog or a cat to be in the supreame court we might as well its gotten to where were not electing qualified people to do these jobs because of rights activist these people needs to be ignored and we need to hire the right people to protect our constitution not some second rate or third rate person just to satisfy a bunch of activist.

    May 15, 2009 at 6:38 am |
  4. bhogilal desai

    since my arrival to america 10 years before, i had noticed that everywhere the american administration is being dominated by white people from states to federal offices to law enforcement department
    from house representative to senate though the country is composed of
    mix population even at factory level administration i noticed the same criterea time has now come to keep a reservation criterea to a tag of equal or an appropriate balance in almost all the fields as per constitutional guide line that is all men are created equally by the almighty and they should share their human cotrbution equally.
    not only that a time shas now come to put a ban for elected representative of two terms in every branches from congress to any local offices so that more and more american people have chance to
    represent different comunity keeping the true sence of democracy.
    from mr .desai b.d.

    May 15, 2009 at 6:27 am |
  5. Dominic Gardunio of North East, PA

    The question is simple " It is up to the president" If he wants a female or a male. It could be a latino or a african american. I don't mind who becomes the next judge. I just hope this person is truthful and lawful.

    May 15, 2009 at 6:06 am |
  6. Rob W.

    Not sure if anyone who has risen to a position of selection for the supreme court, and having sat in the chair for years handing out impartial judgements to all sectors of society, remains under the affect or influence of the commonly held aggregate beliefs of their religion or culture of origin to the extent that it would effect their judgement regarding the law and the constitution. I think this is largely the subtext of Dershowitz argument against having good "optics" on the supreme court as opposed to the "absolute" best and brightest.

    May 14, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  7. Fred Robinson

    Hi Kiran:

    Any chance of seeing your D.C. dress in the near future?

    That would make my day.


    May 14, 2009 at 12:28 pm |