FOR THE WEEK OF MAY 11, 2009
Job opening, experience required: U.S. Supreme Court justice
Look for news and opinion coverage about potential nominees for the vacancy. List qualifications that are important for the president to consider.
Reports on courts and other legal topics involve your community, county and state. Find one on a subject of interest and summarize it for discussion.
Lawyers' presentations to the Supreme Court are open to journalists, but not to cameras. Can you think of other anything else covered in newspapers, but not with photos or video?
Just a few months after starting his new job, President Obama is considering a decision with an impact that could last for decades. He'll nominate his first U.S. Supreme Court justice this spring or summer, replacing one -- David Souter -- who decided to retire. The vacancy on America's top court fuels lots of guessing and unsolicited advice about who should get the lifetime job, which pays $208,100 a year.
The court's chief justice (John Roberts since 2005) and eight associate justices are nominated by the president, confirmed by a majority of senators after a hearing, and can serve as long as they want and are healthy.
Right there is a neat snapshot of our democratic government's separation of powers: The president (executive branch) selects, the Senate (legislative branch) reviews and consents, and the judicial appointee stays independent of both other branches.
Supreme Court justices consider the trickiest cases appealed from two lower levels of federal courts -- those involving constitutional questions about privacy, civil rights, government powers, police actions, First Amendment freedoms, criminal punishment.
For the first time in history, every current member is a former federal appeals court judge - and some senators feel Obama should pick an accomplished attorney who entered politics, teaching to business instead of becoming a judge. Most media commentators and other observers assume the president will appoint a woman to join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on a court with seven men (not counting Souter). Assuming all goes smoothly, the newcomer will start work when the court's next term begins in October.
President says: "I will seek someone with a sharp and independent mind, and a record of excellence and integrity."
Justice says: "Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. I don't say it should be 50-50. It could be 60 percent men, 40 percent women -- or the other way around. It shouldn't be that women are the exception." -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Senator says: "I would like to see more people [on the Supreme Court] from outside the judicial monastery -- somebody who has had some real-life experience, not just as a judge." -- Sen. Patrick Leahy, chair of the Judiciary Committee that will hold the confirmation hearings
Front Page Talking Points
is written by
Felix Grabowski and Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2013
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