Thursday, July 07, 2005

Obama on Supreme Court Business

Senator Barack Obama [D- Ill]:…I don’t expect a nominee of [President] George Bush’s to think exactly the way I do. That’s part of what the election was about. And, the Republicans won the election-- they are entitled to appoint a Republican justice. But my hope would be that it would be a justice who respects basic precedents, who is concerned with civil liberties and civil rights, who is concerned about the broad mainstream of legal jurisprudence, and [who] wants to preserve what makes this country great.

Jeff Berkowitz: Senator Obama, Mike McConnell, as you know, is a former [faculty] colleague of yours at the University of Chicago law school, and now is a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge. Is Mike McConnell somebody who you could vote to confirm?

Senator Obama: You know, Michael McConnell is somebody who I know, who I worked with. I respect his intellect greatly. I am not going to speculate right now on the various lists of names and what my position would be. I think that would be unfair to whomever the potential nominee would be and so, I am not going to speculate on that. I think there is a list of Republican jurists that could be nominated—and I think would get very strong support from both sides of the aisle. The question is are those the types of people that the President will appoint.
Senator Obama: …The White House, if it wants to simply poke a stick at the Senate, knows exactly how to do it and if they want to get a peaceful, calm resolution of this new vacancy on the Court, they know how to do that, as well. This isn’t rocket science, this is just a need for people to try to work in as cooperative a fashion as possible. Now there are some very real issues at stake and some very real differences that we have in our society—around issues like abortion or around issues like gay marriage—or some other hot button social issues. But, keep in mind, the Supreme Court doesn’t just rule on abortion and gay marriage…There was just a case last week, in which the Supreme Court made a pretty significant decision about the powers of eminent domain and what cities could or could not do. Those are the kind of issues that the Supreme Court is making decisions about all the time. A lot of them don't fall neatly into liberal or conservative; What you want is just somebody who is going to think these things through and at least from my perspective I want somebody who is sympathetic to the powerless and not just the powerful because I think that is one role of the Court-- to resist the majority some times and say that even if it's not popular we're going to make sure that individual rights are protected when maybe the majority is willing to encroach on them in a way that is unfair.
Excerpts from U. S. Senator Barack Obama's [D-Illinois] Press Conference at the federal Klucynski Building in the Loop, July 1, 2005.
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at