Another woman on the Supreme Court of the United States would be good, but I wonder if a woman who is a mother might be even better! No, not one to make the grilled cheese sandwiches and make sure everyone remembers to wear their warm coats. But someone who can view cases through the lenses of judicial experience and the reality of working motherhood.
It shouldn’t be such a stretch to expect Barack Obama to appoint a woman with his first Supreme Court nomination. After all, as Laura Stiller Rikleen pointed out at the Boston Globe:
[W]e wonder, by what possible analysis could a woman not be appointed as only the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court since it first assembled in 1790?
… [E]ven with our significant numbers in the legal profession, some commentators insist on classifying women as a “special interest” that the president will need to consider. How did one-half of the population and a third of the profession come to be viewed as a special interest?
Neither women nor mothers are special interest groups — we’re the ones who spend most of the money and manage our families, be they children, spouses, parents, siblings or more.
President Obama says he wants to appoint someone to the Supreme Court who can bring real life perspectives to the bench, as well as the necessary intellectual heft. I couldn’t agree more. Think about how things might have turned out differently if Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hadn’t been the only woman (and mother) on the court when it told Lilly Ledbetter that it wouldn’t do anything about the wage discrimination by her employer Goodyear and when the court suggested that there is a role for its paternalism when it comes to reproductive choice.
And if there had been other women’s voices on the Court, would the outcome have been different in the Court’s recent decision that employers are justified in discounting maternity leave when it comes to determining pension eligibility of female employees? One more blow to our fight for equal pay for women that Congress must address since the guys on the Court just don’t get it.
It wouldn’t surprise me if decisions like that make Sandra Day O’Connor wonder why she ever left the Court in the first place.
Justice Ginsburg has fought the good fight, especially with the language of her dissenting opinions, in calling out her fellow justices in their attitudes toward women, but she’s only one vote. And she’s 76. She needs some back-up.
I’d like to suggest that a mother who still has children at home (or isn’t too far out from that experience) could provide an interesting peek into the intersection of judicial ivory towers and real life — someone who is still living the daily reality of what it means to be the one in the family who brings home the bacon, fries it up in the pan, and makes sure the grease doesn’t get poured down the sink because she’ll be the one who has to take time off from work when the plumber has to come and snake the drain. Someone like that could be a powerful voice of reason when it comes to getting the remaining members of the Supreme Court to remember that there is a place for the law to intersect with real life.
Another commentator has suggested that if Obama wants to consider a qualified candidate who is a mother, he might also take a look at Caroline Kennedy, Marian Wright Edelman and Sentaor Claire McCaskill. And if law degree isn’t necessary, I’d suggest that the President look around these parts of the blogosphere — I KNOW there are some women around here who could make some good decisions for the working families of America and teach some of those other justices a thing or two about the impact of making judicial decisions in a reality vacuum.
Obviously, there are plenty of women candidates who don’t have children who would make great additions to the court. But as long as we’re taking life experiences and personal lenses into consideration, why not think about how another mother’s view from the highest bench in the land might give us the additional ally we need when it comes to decisions that impact women’s health, women’s salaries and women’s lives?
After all, we’ve got a mother and a grandmother in the White House and one as Secretary of State. It’s time to beef up the presence of mothers in the court system too!