President Obama should consider Sullivan for Supreme Court

May 15, 2009

Paul Sousa— Paul Sousa is co-founder of the non-profit GLBT rights organization, Join The Impact MA, which puts on grassroots events in the metro Boston area.  Paul is also the founder and president of Equal Rep, a Boston based organization that focuses on rapid online mobilization to lobby for the appointment or election of highly qualified openly GLBT politicians.  The views expressed are his own. —

Supreme Court Justice David Souter is planning to retire at the end of the current Supreme Court term after 19 years on the bench. The vacancy will give President Obama his first chance to name a member of the high court and begin to shape its future direction.

President Obama recently stated, “the issues that come before the Court are not sport, they’re life and death. And we need somebody who’s got the heart–the empathy–to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old–and that’s the criteria by which I’ll be selecting my judges.”

There have been 110 Supreme Court appointments throughout our nation’s history ranging from James Wilson in 1798 to the most recent appointment of Samuel Alito in 2006. 106 of those 110 Justices have been straight, white men. There have been two females, two men of color that have served on the Supreme Court, and not a single openly gay member has ever served.

President Obama now has a unique opportunity to not only nominate an incredibly qualified candidate, Kathleen Sullivan, but to also shatter a glass ceiling at the very same time. If chosen, Sullivan would become the first ever openly gay Justice and third female Justice in United States history to serve on the Supreme Court leading to a Court that more truly reflects the composition of the American population.

Kathleen Sullivan is hands down one of the most qualified candidates. She is a Marshall scholar and former Stanford Law dean whom constitutional law legend Laurence Tribe once called “the most extraordinary student I had ever had.” She is the author of the nation’s leading casebook in constitutional law, has litigated before the Supreme Court, and has been named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal. Sullivan was also a professor of law at Harvard Law School from 1984 until 1993. She joined Stanford Law School in 1993 and became the Stanley Morrison Professor of Law in 1996. Sullivan then served as the dean of Stanford Law School from 1999 until 2004, when she voluntarily stepped down to serve as the inaugural director of a new Stanford center on constitutional law. Since 2004, she has been the Stanley Morrison Professor of Law at Stanford Law School.

Given Ms. Sullivan’s extensive qualifications and the diversity that she would bring to the table (or bench, rather), I believe she should be chosen as our next United States Supreme Court Justice or at the very least be given a chance and closely considered.

Editor’s note:

This is the first piece in a series of commentaries on the next justice of the Supreme Court. We encourage you to submit short comments on this post. If you would like to submit a longer piece for consideration, please email

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Why would we have any litmus test for anyone. We shouldn’t put someone into a position just because they are gay, black, female or a white male for that matter. To do so it to be prejudice and un-American.

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