Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why the next Justice should be a Woman

Ruth Marcus explains why it's important that the next Supreme Court justice be a woman:

As important, though, is the inescapable fact that a female justice -- like a justice who's a member of a racial minority, or who's served in elective office, or who's been in private practice -- brings a useful set of life experiences to the art of judging. Because it is an art; it involves the exercise of judgment, not scientific measurement.

Those from the umpire school -- funny how that's a male metaphor -- would prefer not to think so. In an interview with CNBC shortly after O'Connor's retirement, Justice Antonin Scalia said that "as far as the product of the court is concerned, it makes no difference at all. I don't think there's . . . a female legal answer to a question and a male legal answer to the same question. That's just silly."

Sure it is, phrased that way. But life experiences inform the act of judging, and the experience of being a female justice comes into play at certain moments.

Ginsburg, in an interview with USA Today, cited two from this term: one involving school officials who strip-searched a 13-year-old-girl, and another on pregnancy discrimination. In the strip-search case, some justices questioned the notion that the girl was traumatized by the event; Ginsburg suggested that they just didn't get it. "They have never been a 13-year-old girl," she told USA Today. "It's a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn't think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood."