Sunday, May 09, 2010

Needed on Supreme Court: A Veteran

from the New York Times:
For President Obama, Many Gaps to Fill on the Bench

Many argue that the Supreme Court lacks diversity. As President Obama closes in on a nominee, 10 legal experts make their case for the kind of justice the court needs.

A Veteran

When Justice John Paul Stevens retires, the Supreme Court will be left without a sitting war veteran. He enlisted in the Navy the day before Pearl Harbor and, as an intelligence officer, was involved with the code-breaking efforts in the Pacific. Decades later, Justice Stevens’s service gave him a visceral appreciation for war and the military institution, and left in him a healthy skepticism toward executive power, particularly the use of that power in wartime. This carried forward into some of his most important opinions, as in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, in 2006, which ruled military commissions inconsistent with the Geneva conventions and America’s system of military justice.

The court’s impending military gap reflects America’s widening civil-military divide: fewer than one percent of Americans serve in the armed forces and, consistent with these numbers, fewer veterans now serve in Congress or on the federal bench than at any time since World War II. But our nation remains at war, and many of the court’s toughest cases arise out of these wars, from battlefield contracts to warrantless surveillance. The Supreme Court needs a new justice who will bring national security credentials, and a personal connection to the military, to its cloistered chambers.

PHILLIP CARTER, Iraq war veteran and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy


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