Barack Obama on Supreme Court Justices

Last Updated : Dec 15, 2010

Summary

In 2001, State Senator Obama gave an interview with Chicago Public Radio where he stated that the supreme court could be used as a mechanism to redistribute wealth in the country and that a failure to do this was one of the tragedies of the civil rights movement. He stated that the court was not structured to bring about redistributive wealth, and may not be the best mechanism to achieve that goal.

During the 2008 campaign, Senator Obama was asked about the type of person he would appoint as a supreme court justice. Senator Obama stated that there were two criteria: intellectual qualifications and the academic credentials to perform, and an empathy for the people involved. He stated that he wanted his appointments to protect people who had no money or political power and not be too involved in abstractions. Senator Obama was also critical of the recent history of only choosing people for the bench that came out of academia.

Senator Obama also stated during the campaign that while he did not view it as a litmus test, he would not appoint a judge that did not believe in the validity of Roe vs Wade. He stated that the right of women to choose was at stake in the election with the likely retirements of two liberal justices in the next four years.

In appointing Justice Sotomayor, President Obama remarked that she had a terrific life story and a great deal of empathy for her fellow man. He also reinforced previous statements that he viewed gender and race as important factors in deciding a judicial appointment.

Despite previous statements that he disagreed with the reliance on academia for judicial appointments, President Obama selected a second Justice in Elena Kagan who had spent her entire life in academia with a brief service as Solicitor General.

President Obama's statements and actions suggest that he views the life story, gender, race and political views of the person being appointed as important factors in selecting a judge.

 

Chicago Public Radio

In a 2001 Chicago public radio interview, then State Senator Obama openly discussed the use of the supreme court to redistribute wealth. He goes on to say that while the Warren court viewed the constitution as a charter of negative liberties in that but should have also viewed it as a document that gives requirements to the government. His exact quote is that "it says what the state and federal government can't do to you, it doesn't say what it should do for you". He also uses the term "redistributive weatlh" a number of times in reference to the court.

 

Empathy and Supreme Court Appointments

During the 2008 campaign, Senator Obama was asked about people he may appoint to the Supreme Court in terms of gender and character. In responding to the question, Senator Obama noted that there were two facets to any judge he would select for appointment. One facet was the intellectual qualifications and the academic credentials to perform. The other criteria was an empathy for the people involved. He stated that he wanted his appointments to protect people who had no money or political power. He stated that this "was the role of the court." He also stated that gender was a factor in appointment and that too many selections were coming from academia.

At another campaign event, Senator Obama was asked a question about supreme court appointments. He again noted that along with intellect and academic pedigree, a "willingness to look out for the powerless." He then stated that he did not want someone who would always rule for the minority, but should be sensitive to those who don't have power. he reiterated an earlier statement that the supreme court should not give the President carte blanche to do whatever it wants.

 

Abortion and Supreme Court Appointments

During the 2008 campaign cycle, Senator Obama spoke at a Planned Parenthood conference and make remarks that indicated he would not appoint a a judge that was not supportive of Roe vs Wade.

 

 

Opposition to Some Appointments

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Senator Obama was interviewed by Rick Warren and asked which supreme court candidates he would not have nominated. He responded that he did not believe that Justice Thomas was a strong enough legal scholar and that his interpretation of the Constitution was too different from that of Scalia's to warrant an appointment.

 

Announcement of Sonia Sotomayor

In May of 2009, President Obama announced his decision to nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor. In his announcement of that nomination, he mentioned Judge Sotomayor's ability to be in touch with the common people as one of her qualifications.

 

Announcement of Elena Kagen Nomination

In May of 2010, President Obama announced that his Solicitor General will be the next nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States.

Voting Record

Confirmation of Justice Samuel Alito

In January of 2006, the senate voted to confirm Justice Samuel Alito. Barack Obama voted against confirming Justice Samuel Alito.

Barack Obama voted against confirming Justice Samuel Alito.

Motion to End Debate on Samuel Alito

In 2006, a vote was taken for cloture on the nomination of Justice Samuel Alito. The filibuster of Justice Alito failed to get the votes needed. Barack Obama voted against ending debate and in favor of the filibuster.

Barack Obama voted against ending debate and in favor of the filibuster.

Confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts

In September of 2005, the Senate voted to confirm John Roberts to be Chief Justice of the United States. Barack Obama voted against the confirmation of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.

Barack Obama voted against the confirmation of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.

 

Sponsored and Cosponsored Legislation

This representative has not been identified as sponsoring or cosponsoring significant legislation related to this title.

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