Supreme Court tryouts

March 20, 2009

Elena Kagan took the oath of office to be the nation’s top lawyer, the Solicitor General, last Friday.  The Associated Press is running a story (here from the Sacramento Bee) on whether this is a tryout for the Supreme Court itself, “Obama could make top high court lawyer a justice.”  (Isn’t that a tortured headline?)

Three justices may want to retire soon:  Justice John Paul Stevens is 88 years old.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 76, and back on the court in record time after surgery for pancreatic cancer.  Justice David Souter is third oldest, at 69.

So, this AP story could be a good article for use in government classes.  Consider these questions:

  • Is Solicitor General a stepping stone to the Supreme Court’s bench?
  • What is the role of the Solicitor General?
  • How important is Supreme Court experience, or experience in other courtrooms, to success in arguing before the Supreme Court?
  • What are some of the top cases before the Supreme Court this term, and what are the potential and likely results of these appeals?
  • What is the role of the U.S. Senate in selection of federal judges, and especially in the selection of Supreme Court justices?
  • Kagan clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall.  What do law clerks do for justices?  What does her clerking suggest for Kagan’s advocacy of Voting Rights Act issues, since she worked with Justice Thurgood Marshall?

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