Supreme Court Justice Caroline Kennedy Would Be Good for Women and Families

Choice of Kennedy, Edelman, or McCaskill Would do justice to families, women.


By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog

Joan Biskupic, who has covered the Supreme Court for years for USA Today and the Washington Post and who is the author of the definitive biography of Sandra Day O'Connor, writes about the options facing President Obama in naming a replacement for Justice Souter:

During the campaign ... Obama expressed his preference for a justice with real-world experience in the mode of former California governor Earl Warren, who presided as the court struck down school segregation and helped generate a civil rights revolution.

"I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory," Obama said Friday. "It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives." 

Biskupic goes on to mention a few nonjudicial prospects for nominees, including the head of Homeland Security and former Arizona attorney general Janet Napolitano, and Michigan governor and former state attorney general (and Harvard Law grad) Jennifer Granholm.

Earl Warren was not only governor of California before being named to the Supreme Court; he served in the Army in World War I, he worked in the oil business for a year, joined a private law firm, worked as a D.A., and then served as state attorney general. He was the father of six children. Along those lines—of a female Earl Warren-type nominee with a breadth of experience outside of the bench—here are a few names I'd like to throw into the mix. Of course, I can think of lots of conservative women, but let's agree that they're probably not on the president's list. So I've kept it to three liberal women with law degrees, who have experience both in the working world and in raising kids:

Caroline Kennedy: Columbia Law graduate, 51, mother of three kids, author of several books, including two legal works: In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action in 1991 and in 1996, The Right to Privacy, with Ellen Alderman, cochaired the Vice Presidential Selection Committee for President Obama; almost ran for Senate in New York to replace Hillary Clinton.

Marian Wright Edelman: Yale Law graduate, 69, mother of three, first African-American woman admitted to the Mississippi State Bar. Founded the Children's Defense Fund in 1973 to advocate for poor, minority, and disabled children. Author of a number of books, including The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours in 1992.

And my personal favorite, Claire McCaskill: University of Missouri Law graduate, 55, single mom for seven years, then remarried and now has a blended family of nine kids. Put herself through law school as a waitress; according to her official bio, she worked in a fabric store as a teenager in order to sew her own clothes. Later, she ran the state's largest prosecutor's office (in Kansas City) and began its first domestic violence unit. Elected as a state legislator and Missouri State Auditor, now serving as senator from Missouri. Returns to St. Louis every weekend, where her 79-year-old mother, Betty Anne, lives with the family.

All three would bring a unique—and much-needed—voice to the Supreme Court, but my vote goes to Claire McCaskill because of her work experience both as a waitress and a prosecutor, her life as a single mom, and her family responsibilities taking care of both young children and an aging parent. I also like the fact that unlike the majority of the current Supreme Court justices, she graduated from a state university rather than an Ivy League law school. Sends a good message to all those hard-working women at law schools around the country.

I'm sure our readers will have a few nominees, too.

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