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My Audition for the Supremes

By Jeanne McManus
Friday, May 8, 2009

Let me argue my case right here. I would make a great justice of the Supreme Court, and I happen to be available for the position when David Souter heads back to his "house" in New Hampshire.

First, I'm a woman. That seems to be the (understandably) necessary requirement, and I've got that one down. I realize I'm a long shot in a competition loaded with talented and credentialed women, and I wish those women well. The New York Times Web site has an interactive feature, "If You Were President," that allows people to vote for their favorite candidate for the court, and it is rich with experienced female jurists and lawyers. (Sure, let's delude ourselves for a while into thinking that we have some clout when it comes to picking justices.) Such distinguished women as Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are front-runners. (Bill Clinton is on the list of contenders, low down, but there's no way that's happening, sisters.)

But at the risk of sounding like I'm trolling for votes, I'd like to point out that there is an opportunity for readers to write in nominations. I don't have a law degree, but I have other talents that would serve the court well. For instance, I ask a lot of questions, and I'm a good listener. I take good notes. Though they are in my own crazy kind of shorthand, I can still understand them days, even years, later. On matters of complicated jurisprudence and fine points of the law about which I know nothing, I would hire smart law clerks (some Ivy League, yes, but I'd also get some good ones from state schools and quirky, outside-the-box law schools). I would treat my clerks well, and they would do copious research, prepare me for court, and pass me notes or send hand signals when it looked like I was about to do something foolish.

If I wasn't sure how to vote on a particular case, I would find out what Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were doing, then go the other way.

I'm fair. When I was an editor, my reporters generally agreed that I treated them equally. (I did have one nasty little habit that my boss would point out in my yearly evaluations: Once in a while I put a particular reporter in the doghouse and was slow to let him out. I promise I would work on that.)

I wear black every day anyway.

I'm used to being around a lot of men since I once was a sports journalist, but I have wonderful female friends, too, and if she'd have me, I would love to go to the symphony with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Over a glass of wine at intermission, we could think up ways to get some of the guys to take early retirement so we could get more women on the court.

I'm young, at least by court standards, where the mean age is 69. So the president could be assured that I am young enough to be around for a while but too old to be likely to do anything impeachable.

I have great appreciation for a well-argued case, a respect I learned early at the family dinner table when I needed every weapon in my legal arsenal to overturn a lower court decision prohibiting me from using the family car. (Reversed, 2-0!) Perhaps most important, I fit a key criterion of President Obama's, as he said Friday: "I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook." That's a perfect description of me.

And when it comes time for my confirmation hearings, I've got a clean record -- no history of misguided or regrettable legal decisions or public speeches that alienated special-interest groups. I have shredded all of my high school poetry. There might be some photos out there of a certain Bastille Day party at a certain French bistro, but I am hoping that no one will recognize me with the haircut I had back then.

Jeanne McManus, a former Post editor, is an occasional contributor to the op-ed page.

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