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Highest court needs more female representation

Illustration by Earl Larrabee
By Katie Paulson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
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With the recent vacancy of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat, I have fallen into accord with the sentiments of First Lady Laura Bush. President Bush should nominate a woman to fill the position on the esteemed bench.

In the midst of circulating rumors about top possible nominees, one recurring theme continues to emerge: There are no strong female candidates. Judge Edith Jones of Texas has been mentioned as a possible nominee, but due to her radical conservative record, the likeliness of Congress approving her nomination seems slim.

What happened to the urgent push for including a representative of more than half of the world's population to the top court in the United States? More importantly, why should there be an outcry for another female voice on the bench?

Out of the 110 justices that have ever served on the Supreme Court, a whopping two have been women. Justice O'Connor was appointed in 1981, which showed the powerful persuasion of the women's rights movement during the 1970s. Former President Bill Clinton appointed Justice Ruth Ginsberg in 1993; this was another time when women's rights were in the limelight.

In some aspects of government structures, women have edged their way in with record-high numbers. The 108th Congress in 2003 boasted 77 women, according to Congressional reports. While that figure signifies impressive growth, it still remains overshadowed by the slow acceptance of more women in such federal organizations. Once we break down that figure for further evaluation, we find that only 14 of the 100 U.S. Senators were female. This percentage mirrors the overall number of women in Congress (77 out of 540 total individuals). Is 14 percent good enough?

Katie Paulson

One of the most poignant reasons for replacing Justice O'Connor with another woman rests with future cases and their impact on American society. In particular, the issue of abortion will mark a monumental decision that the new high court will most likely encounter. Regardless of your position on abortion, such cases should not be left up to the male superiority to decide what's best for a woman's body. Because the Supreme Court involved itself in the lives of women with the major decision founded in 1973's Roe v. Wade, it must have actual women on the bench to assist in reaching such profound decisions. While ideology remains the major factor for such a decision, female judges have the opportunity to ensure that women's voices are heard.

Leaving the issue of abortion behind, President Bush needs to nominate a woman for the court in order to appeal to a bipartisan constituency. The President's ability to nominate federal judges is one of the most powerful delegations in the government. With polls depicting a decline in approval rating, Bush should want to make sure that his final acts as President don't tarnish the images of the Republican Party. Democrats should be up-in-arms in their attempts to promote possible female candidates for the position. Of course, the Democrats would support a much more liberal nominee, but with the decline of feminism and women's rights in the last few years, according to Psychology Today and other independent research, this serves as the perfect opportunity for Democrats to embrace the cause once again. On the other side, Republicans can use this to reach out to more conservative females. In fact, the most unimaginable nominee from President Bush would be a woman of minority. After GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman's speech to the NAACP this past Thursday apologizing for the exploitation of blacks in order to court white voters, the idea of non-Caucasian justice should be riling up the GOP members. Here, the GOP could attract minority voters who have historically supported the Democratic Party. Both parties stand to gain much credibility and loyalty if they join forces to support the nomination of a woman.

NOW, the National Organization for Women, started to raise warning flags against the Bush administration in terms of the upcoming nomination field. Because the number of female law students has quadrupled since 1972 and women held 28 percent of the highest state courts positions in 2002, activists are urging the president to continue his promised promotion of women.

So who should be in the running pool? Look at Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey. Besides breaking numerous 'First Woman' barriers in Tennessee's court system, she has received a multitude awards for her services in the legal field, as well holding a variety of positions in esteemed legal organizations such as former president of the National Association of Women Judges and former chair of the Judicial Division of the American Bar Association. Other possible nominees include Judge Gladys Kessler, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Judge Janice Rogers Brown. Yet, are any of these possible nominees for the President? With mixed records on the issues of abortion, death penalty and civil rights, the only one fitting the generalized mold of the Bush administration would be Judge Brown. But who knows? Former President Ronald Regan probably didn't envision Justice O'Connor as the swing voter when he appointed her.

With weeks left full of discussion regarding potential nominees, possible filibusters, blocked appointments and other judicial and Congressional hoopla, the Bush team still has plenty of time to consider adding another female voice to the bench. Perhaps Laura will have the final word.

Katie Paulson is a junior majoring in English and Political Science and a hopeful nominee for the Supreme Court in 40 years. She can be reached at

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