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Constitution Day

Yesterday was Constitution Day, and VLS recognized it with a panel discussion about the legacy of retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter. The speakers were two federal justices from New Hampshire — Souter’s home state — and VLS Professor Jack Tuholske. They covered a number of topics, but one point each one of them kept emphasizing was that liberal and conservative labels just don’t apply when it comes to judges. It’s not surprising that they focused on this issue since Justice Souter was appointed by President George H. W. Bush, but came to be seen as part of the liberal wing of the Supreme Court.

They talked about how the media focused too much on the political persuasion of a justice when he or she is nominated. In their experiences as justices and as a practicing attorney, they had never been involved in a case where a justice’s reasoning or decision allowed them to determine whether he or she was a Democrat or a Republican. Judicial philosophy was important to consider, but, as Professor Tuholske said, you should never frame your argument in court based on which party nominated a justice to the bench. It was refreshing to hear each of them say this, since there seems to be undue media attention on the political leanings of nominated justices.

Surely, the judicial branch of government is not isolated from politics, but despite the picture the media would portray, it does seem that respect for the rule of law is alive and well. The more I learn about our legal tradition here at VLS, the more fascinated I become. And, I really like the Supreme Court, too. Here is a funny and entertaining clip from NPR when Justice Stephen Breyer came onto Not My Job on NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

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