Law Professors For the Supreme Court?:
Beldar suggests that some critics of the Miers nomination want the President to nominate a law professor for the Supreme Court. I haven't heard anyone clamoring for this, but it brings up an interesting question: Is experience as a law professor good training for service as a Supreme Court Justice?

  Here's my tentative thought, if you'll let me paint with a broad brush. As with any credential, the ultimate issue is the person, not their jobs. It's easy to read too much into any one experience: We naturally tend to assume that someone who has had a particular experience is "that type" of person. With that said, my instinct is that extensive experience as a law professor probably isn't very good training for service as a Supreme Court Justice.

  Here's my thinking. As most practicing lawyers know, academia can be a little bit, well, quirky. Law professors generally are rewarded for being clever, or for catching a wave of fashionable ideas and writing a lot about them. Within the academy, it's frequently better to be gloriously wrong than modestly right.

  In my opinion, the qualities of a good Justice are very different. I side with Learned Hand on this one: "The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right." Being fashionable, exceedingly clever, or gloriously wrong aren't assets for judges. The case of Yale Law professor William O. Douglas illustrates the problem. Douglas was brilliant, and a very successful academic as an important figure in the legal realist movement of the 1930s. But those qualities didn't translate well into being a good Justice. His opinions are bold, but also sloppy and frustrating; If you're trying to make sense of an area of law, you hope that the key decision in the field isn't a Douglas opinion.

  That's my tentative reaction, anyway. As always, actual mileage may vary: As I said, what matters is the person rather than the credential. Some academics are influenced by this environment more than others, and some have made terrific judges and Justices. But as a rule, I'm not sure that lots of time in academia is the best credential for a Supreme Court Justice. (Oh, and for any law professors reading this, please understand that I think you would make a simply wonderful Justice. It's the other professors that make me worry.)