Tuesday, May 12, 2009

An Intriguing Duo

Leah Ward Sears, currently Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, has not been at the top of my personal Supreme Court lists, simply because I think there are more progressive candidates out there. Nonetheless, I certainly wouldn't be displeased by her nomination, and she is without question an able, qualified jurist who would surely do honor to the Court as the first Black woman to serve in that role.

The Washington Post has a brief piece on Judge Sears detailing her perhaps somewhat unlikely friendship with Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Thomas has rallied to her defense when Judge Sears has come under attack from conservative bomb-throwers in Georgia, and Judge Sears made sure he was present at her swearing-in as Chief Justice (to the disappointment of some of the civil rights old guard).

Dan Filler says some liberals might worry that Thomas might push Sears to the right once she's on the Court, as she already identifies as a "moderate with a progressive streak". But Filler points out that it is as possible that Sears might press Thomas to become more open to competing perspectives, which he has cast aside due to their association with his past political enemies. Or (most likely of all, Filler says), they will mostly maintain their respective judicial stances while likewise maintaining their friendship, ala Ginsburg and Scalia.

I think that this last option is probably the most likely as well. But the prospect of the debate intrigues me more than the possibility of a consensus. Justice Thomas' judicial outlook is indisputably connected to his identity as a Black man. I suspect that Judge Sears' positions are likewise connected to her position as a Black woman. Though occupying similar vantage points, they have interpreted their mandates in wildly different directions. The interplay they can have -- a debate that is to some degree internal to the Black experience -- is something that would benefit the judiciary and benefit the country.

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