Saturday, July 02, 2005
Appoint a Floridian
Appoint a Floridian
BY DAVID OSCAR MARKUS
The nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have served together longer than any other nine justices in recent history.
Nevertheless, President Bush may have the opportunity to appoint up to four justices to the court during his second term. Speculation has been increasing ever since Chief Justice William Rehnquist was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, requiring him to work from home and to participate only on a limited basis. The pundits have also pointed to Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Ginsburg as potential retirees.
There has been a great deal of discussion about whom Bush should appoint. But perhaps an equally important question is where this jurist should come from. Florida is the best choice.
No Floridian has ever been appointed to the Supreme Court. True, 18 other states are also unrepresented, but Florida's population is more than three times the size of the next largest of the 18, Wisconsin.
The current court is made up of justices from Arizona (Rehnquist and O'Connor), Illinois (Stevens), New York (Ginsburg), Massachusetts (Stephen Breyer), California (Anthony Kennedy), Georgia (Clarence Thomas), Virginia (Antonin Scalia) and New Hampshire (David Souter). Certainly there is a place for a Floridian. Consider the fact that we have produced some of the major cases to go before the court (Bush vs. Gore) and that we have more than 75,000 lawyers and judges to choose from. Only California (55), New York (31) and Texas (34) have more electoral votes than Florida (27).
In 1978, William J. Daniels attempted to discuss why the 19 states were not represented on the court, saying: ``The 19 states which have not yet had a person appointed to the court have tended to be the least populated of their region.''
O'Connor tried to explain it this way: ''The Supreme Court and other appellate courts benefit by having judges from diverse backgrounds and experiences.'' Unfortunately, ``there are fewer people of rural backgrounds to go around, on the bench or elsewhere.''
With all due respect to Idaho and the Dakotas, Florida seems to have bucked the rural label quite some time ago. And as for diversity, there is no more diverse state than Florida.
Back in 1978, Daniels concluded by saying, ``One can reasonably expect that presidents will continue to be concerned with the geographic factor, and that officials from the as yet unrepresented states will continue to call attention to their status when vacancies occur on the court.''
So here's an issue that all Floridians -- Republican, Democrat or independent -- can support: The next Supreme Court justice should come from our great state.