Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Supreme Court lacks a sense of plowed ground

If confirmed by the Senate, federal appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor would replace Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. That would put the first Hispanic on the highest court of the land, but leave it with little if any representation from rural America, Douglas Burns reports for the Daily Yonder.

The only justice with rural ties is Clarence Thomas, left, who was born in Pin Point, Ga., but lived there for only six years before moving to Savannah. The other justices come from largely Eastern, Ivy-League backgrounds. Including Sotomayor, four are from the New York City area, two (Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito) are from Trenton, N.J., two are from California, one is from Chicago, and Chief Justice John Roberts was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and raised in Long Beach, Ind., just outside Chicago.

Burns, an Iowa journalist, argues that “Obama owes his presidency in large part to rural America as his political fortunes turned dramatically when he defeated Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses.” The departure of Souter, who brought strong rural credentials to the court, is paving the way for a more diverse court, although not in terms of rurality. Advocates like Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) hope the tide will turn with the next nomination. “You can’t get much more rural than Judge Souter living out in the small community up in rural New Hampshire but we’ve lost that,” he said. “I hope the next time something comes up we get someone that maybe didn’t go to Harvard, didn’t go to Yale, maybe went to a small, Midwestern law school someplace.” (Read more)

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