Harold Ford, Jr. on President Obama's First Supreme Court Nomination

May 6th, 2009

Replacing Justice Souter
by Harold Ford, Jr.
The Washington Post
The Post asked former officials, legal scholars and others how President Obama should handle his first Supreme Court nomination.

Barack Obama explained the rationale behind his Senate vote on Samuel Alito's confirmation simply — that throughout his legal career, Alito had always sided with large and well-funded interests over the little guy. Thus, Obama voted no.

The president, a onetime editor of the Harvard Law Review and a former constitutional law professor, has spelled out over the years the kind of thinker he wants on the court: someone who interprets the Constitution as “a road map by which we marry passion to reason, the ideal of individual freedom to the demands of the community,” he wrote in “The Audacity of Hope.”

As he selects from a wealth of candidates, interviewing people, measuring their experience and intellect, and asking tough questions, I don't imagine a traditional litmus test will apply. No strict questions about abortion, affirmative action or torture. I hope there's a new litmus test: The court needs a broad thinker — someone who will listen closely to the facts of cases, promote an even application of the law and not hesitate to engage fellow justices about the effect their decisions will have for future generations.

The president should be also mindful that Sasha and Malia could use another role model on the high court.