One thing that has struck me about the many discussions over naming a woman to the Indiana Supreme Court, including today’s (7-10-12) Star editorial, and the Indiana Law Blog’s* recent post of John Trimble and Federal Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson’s comments is that something is still missing in the analysis.
The Indiana Supreme Court is a team (I will start by discounting the use of sports analogies as they minimize the topic in some eyes, but will end up using that analogy because it fits so well). This is a five person group assigned by Indiana’s State Constitution with making some of the most profound decisions in the state’s history.
Using the sports team analogy, since it fits in so many ways, there is another five person activity that the people of Indiana understand. If Larry Bird, NBA Executive of the Year, would have thought that every spot on the Pacers roster had to be filled with a Roy Hibbert, (7’0” center) style tall player, because the tall guy was the Best Available Player each time the choice came up, and without taking into consideration the roles that the team needed to be successful, Bird would have lost credibility, and the resulting team would not win very many games.
Every coach and general manager of a team sport builds the team based on the totality of the needs of the team, a basketball forward without a strong point guard suffers, a football team of only quarterbacks is weaker than one with linemen and receivers. A volleyball team without a setter, a digger and a hitter is in trouble.
If the Supreme Court was like the Olympic swimming team, it could take the best in every event. But the swim team is a very different kind of team than a “team sports” team. Michael Phelps does not swim slower if Dara Torres loses, but the Pacers and Hibbert do play poorer if Granger and West take a night off.
Is a woman on the court a “role position?” Not in a quota system of “one woman, one person of color, three white men.” But as lawyers with trial experience, trial court judges, transactional lawyers, large firm lawyers and small firm lawyers all need to be found in the appellate court system, and on the Supreme Court, so to do women, African Americans, Hispanics, and gays. None of them should be excluded from court service, and some have the specific skills and qualifications that are needed to strengthen the Indiana’s Supreme court.
Gov. Daniels should follow the Pacers lead, even if the appointment is first thought to be a Plumlee – that Reggie Miller selection worked out, and his sister played a fair game too.
While quality and experience differ from person to person, in judging the members of legal profession, or humanity, there is never “a best” or “most qualified” candidate. And all things are never equal.
*[update, first ed. had the Indiana Law Blog name incorrect, as the Indiana Legal Blog]